Driverless shuttles to start testing in the Motor City

"We're going to give it a shot and see what happens," Quicken Loans' Dan Gilbert says

They've been used in California, Las Vegas and at research universities across the country such as the University of Michigan. Now, a self-driving shuttle will begin a test program in downtown Detroit, marking the first test of autonomous commercial vehicles in the Motor City.

May Mobility, a startup based in nearby Ann Arbor, says it plans a five-day test program using two of its shuttles in downtown Detroit beginning Oct. 9. The shuttles, which can carry six passengers each, will be offered for use by employees of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, part of the business empire of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

"We have shuttles that shuttle people around downtown for parking and back and everywhere else. So we're going to give it a shot and see what happens," The Detroit News quoted Gilbert as saying.

May Mobility was co-founded in January by Edwin Olson, a former computer science professor at the University of Michigan and a veteran of autonomous vehicle programs at Ford and Toyota, according to TechCrunch. It doesn't make the vehicles, but instead installs its autonomous technology stack on existing shuttle vehicle platforms. The shuttles debuting in Detroit are modified versions of vehicles made by Polaris.

The shuttles will run in an area east of Woodward on streets including Monroe and East Congress — a complicated area that includes one-way streets that intersect at Campus Martius Park near Quicken Loans' HQ. There is high traffic there, both in terms of cars and pedestrians.

Olson, the CEO, told the News that the company has driven routes in downtown Detroit for several months now to gather data. During the testing, a safety driver will be on board and will have the ability to override the vehicle if needed.

It will be interesting to see how these shuttles fare in an environment filled with Detroit's, um, very confident drivers. And we wonder how they'll do in the presence of all those ATVs whipping around Detroit that we wrote about the other day.

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