Self-driving shuttle deployed in Detroit to transport senior citizens

Posted: 21 August 2020 |

The operation intends to be instrumental in addressing today’s most critical mobility, accessibility, and transportation difficulties, including congestion reduction and advanced pedestrian and road safety.

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Passenger departing the Navya Autonom Shuttle used in DMC Self-Driving Shuttle Service.

In a Detroit first, a self-driving, paratransit shuttle is being deployed to transport senior citizens and the less able to and from appointments and other needs at a local hospital.

The deployment – a partnership between Navya, NextEnergy, Bestmile, Flagstar Bank, IXR Mobility, and AARP, as well as DTE, and Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification PlanetM – aims to enhance accessibility for residents of communities through the use of the self-driving shuttle featuring an ADA compliant wheelchair ramp. With these integrations, the service expects to solve the problem many residents of each community face attempting to secure reliable transportation to and from appointments and other essential or critical needs.

“We have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to leverage our state’s robust mobility ecosystem and resources to ensure future transportation solutions better serve our communities,” said Trevor Pawl, the state of Michigan’s Chief Mobility Officer. “Through our state’s highly collaborative environment between our public and private sectors, we’re able to utilise next-generation technologies to create a future that prioritises safer, more inclusive mobility services for residents that live, work and play in our communities, including access to senior citizens and underserved individuals. We’re proud to work together with our partners like Navya in supporting mobility-related projects that have a meaningful impact and create a better quality of life for our residents.”

“Navya is thrilled to work with our partners at NextEnergy, PlanetM, and more to provide a form of increased transport inclusion to two of Detroit’s historic communities,” said Jérôme Rigaud, Chief Operating Officer of Navya Corporation. “This route and those it strives to aid the most, coupled with the accessible nature of the service that features an ADA compliant wheelchair ramp manufactured by market leader BraunAbility, are an ideal foundation to highlight how self-driving vehicles can provide an on-demand solution to our transportation needs that never deviates from its rules.”

Starting mid-August 2020, the shuttle commenced operating along a pre-programmed 1.31-mile route, with an on-board safety operator overseeing the vehicle, provided by IXR Mobility. While the shuttle strives to perform to its fullest capability of autonomy, the on-board attendant serves a multitude of safety purposes during this operation that make safety first priority, including educating passengers on the shuttle’s technology and assisting passengers with boarding and egressing. This operation is said to be important for “building trust in autonomous mobility and connecting disadvantaged transportation, seniors, and people with disabilities to healthcare, local farmers market and pharmacies visits while boarding the Navya self-driving Shuttle,” said Ray Smith, Owner of IXR Mobility and Mobility Inclusion. 

“Brush Park Manor applauds the opportunity to participate in such an innovative service for our Seniors. With transportation being one of the most difficult challenges for Seniors, this service will ensure they have the expediency, efficiency, and safety to access reliable transportation,” said E. Kern Tomlin, the Chairman of Brush Park Manor Board of Directors.

The team has also undertaken measures to increase safety and sanitation of the shuttle during the COVID-19 pandemic. Passengers and operators are required to wear masks and invited to social distance by using and respecting the designated seating areas. Seats and surfaces are sanitised between each trip, with a touch-less hand sanitiser dispenser on board along with anti-bacterial, viral, and alcohol-based wipes available.