Self-driving shuttle provider May Mobility is resuming service, with extensive cleaning measures, in Grand Rapids, Mich., after halting its operations for five and a half months due to the pandemic.
Operations were suspended on March 16, with the initial anticipation of being down until at least Friday, March 27.
“As a service that has over 500 users a day, and with current passengers who fall into the category of being at risk of severe illness, we feel it is in the best interest of our community to suspend service. This is an unprecedented event, and this is a decision we did not come to easily,” May Mobility CEO Edwin Olson said in a March statement.
The company had been operating in Detroit and Providence, R.I., as well. It temporarily halted shuttles in all of the cities due to COVID-19, but service is only resuming in Grand Rapids for now, a spokesperson said.
The eight free shuttles, including one with wheelchair access, will return on Aug. 31, according to a company release. Face coverings will be required in the vehicles.
The shuttles operate on the 3.2-mile DASH West bus route, providing access to downtown Grand Rapids, and the city’s West Side and Heartside districts. The route includes 20 stops, 30 traffic lights and 12 turns, including three left turns, according to the release.
May Mobility’s shuttles, part of the Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative, launched in the city in July 2019.
Since its temporary suspension, May Mobility has implemented several safety and cleaning procedures.
- The use of a partition, which splits the cabin into two sections – one for the fleet attendant who is monitoring the vehicle, and one for the passenger area. The passenger area still features seating for four people but is now limited to carrying one rider at a time or a group of riders from the same household or party.
- Using grenlite, a UV-C light treatment system provided by Holland, Mich.,-based GHSP, to disinfect shuttle interiors between riders. Halosil International’s Halo Disinfection System will also be used daily to disinfect the entire shuttle interior.
- Adding filters to ensure air quality in each zone of the cabin's dual-zone AC system.
Though transmission of COVID-19 “occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through objects,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, disinfection as a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 is still recommended.