Grand Rapids’ autonomous vehicles resume next week

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The free shuttles, launched in July 2019, were operating as part of the Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (AVGR) until March 2020 when service was paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

The city of Grand Rapids and May Mobility announced the autonomous vehicle shuttle service will resume Monday.

The free shuttles, launched in July 2019, were operating as part of the Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (AVGR) until March 2020 when service was paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, the May Mobility team and its AVGR partners have been working to modify the interior of the shuttles and implement stringent cleaning procedures to ensure a safe rider experience.

The following safety and cleaning measures were implemented:

  • Shuttles now feature a partition, developed by a team of May Mobility engineers, that splits the cabin into two sections. The area in the front is reserved for the May Mobility fleet attendant who is monitoring the vehicle’s movements and able to take over driving if needed. The passenger area in the rear still features seating for four people but now is limited to carrying one rider at a time or one grouping of riders who are part of the same household or party. All eight shuttles will be back in service, including one with wheelchair access. Fleet attendants and riders will be required to wear face coverings in the vehicles.
  • Grēnlite, a UV-C light treatment system from Holland-based GHSP, was installed in each shuttle and will be used to disinfect the interiors in between each rider or grouping of riders. According to GHSP, a five-minute dose of grēnlite UV-C is up to 99.9% effective in disabling germs and pathogens that cause illness, including coronavirus.
  • Halosil International’s Halo Disinfection System will be used daily to achieve total surface disinfection of the entire shuttle interior. The HaloFogger, which is also used in hospital settings, ensures the uniform delivery of an EPA-registered virus, bacteria and spore-killing solution — utilizing dry-fogging technology to reach all of the crevices and areas beyond the reach of sprays, wipes and UV lights.
  • The shuttles already featured dual-zone AC systems. The May Mobility team has added MERV 13 filters to each zone that can easily be replaced regularly to further ensure clean air quality in the cabin.

“I am so proud of the May Mobility team for coming together with our partners to find the right combination of cleaning technologies to get the shuttles back in service in Grand Rapids,” said Edwin Olson, founder and CEO of May Mobility. “The Grand Rapids shuttle program also demonstrates our company mission of delivering safe, efficient transportation options that will ultimately improve cities.”

Josh Naramore, director of Mobile GR and Parking Services, said Grand Rapids is eager to welcome back the autonomous vehicles.

“We are pleased to return AVGR to the streets in a safe and responsive way,” Naramore said. “The AVGR pilot continues to be an innovative and popular option for travelers while advancing autonomous vehicle technology in Grand Rapids.”

AVGR operates on the 3.2-mile existing DASH West bus route, which provides access to downtown and the city’s West Side and Heartside business districts. The route includes 20 stops, 30 traffic lights and 12 turns, including three left turns. All autonomous vehicles have an attendant onboard when they are on Grand Rapids streets.

DASH West provides connectivity to more than 10 city-owned parking lots and points of interest that include museums, entertainment venues and other hot spots.

Fleet operations for the May Mobility vehicles are housed and charged in the parking garage connected to the headquarters of Rockford Construction, which contains the necessary EV charging equipment and parking spaces to clean, maintain and service the technology on the vehicles.

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