Smart cars aren’t just on Knight Rider anymore.

With the rapid development of technology for autonomous vehicles, self-driving cars are making their way to cities across the world. Developers are stepping on the gas (or- programming cars to step on their own gas…?) to bring autonomous vehicles to as many people as possible.

While it may still sound far off in the future, autonomous shuttles are already here! May Mobility, an international autonomous shuttle service, has added a route in Downtown Indianapolis. So, as the intern, it was my mission to find out more by going for a ride in one of these real-life KITTs.

Cool! What is it?

May Mobility is a free, autonomous shuttle service with eight unique locations in the United States and Japan, including:

  • Detroit, MI
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Columbus, OH
  • Arlington, TX
  • Higashi Hiroshima, Japan

…and now, Indianapolis.

These shuttles come in all different types of cars. For me, it was a Lexus named Maestro. No matter what type of ride is coming your way, you can recognize a May Mobility vehicle by the word “MAY” on the hood.

*Fun fact! Every May Mobility vehicle has a name starting with the letter “M.” Even cooler, each May Mobility employee gets to name one of the shuttles. Maestro’s attendant, Vince, named a vehicle in production “Momo” after Aang’s pet on the television series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Be sure to ask about your shuttle’s name.

Wait, there’s a person? I thought you said they were autonomous.

They are! Here’s how it works.

These shuttles use a combination of GPS, cameras stationed around the vehicle and lots of other techno-wizardry to obtain a 360-degree view of their surroundings. They use this intel to make decisions about driving operations.

The technology is sophisticated, making it a safe experience for riders and everyone else on the road. However, every May Mobility shuttle has an attendant who can override driving decisions, if necessary, as an extra safety precaution. Vince had Maestro show off with some hands-free cruising and turning.

(And honestly, it’s good a person with you. As wonderful as the shuttles are, they won’t talk about Schitt’s Creek with you. That’s what Vince did, so shoutout to him for that.)

Gotcha. How can I catch a ride?

May Mobility shuttles work like a bus. They arrive at stops every 10 to 15 minutes, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Shuttles are free to ride and take passengers on a first come, first-served basis. Wheelchair-accessible shuttles are available upon request.

And, since shuttles are a mode of public transportation, all passengers are required to wear a mask during the ride. But you won’t mind because, again, you’re in a self-driving future car with a cool name.

Where do they stop?

The new local route goes primarily through IUPUI with a couple stops connecting it more intentionally with Downtown Indy.

Stops include:

  • Wilson Parking Lot
  • IU Pediatric Care
  • IU Hospital
  • Hine Hall
  • The Red Line Connector
  • Herron School of Art & Design
  • IUPUI Lecture Hall
  • IU School of Dentistry
  • Limestone

Now if you’re late to class, you can say, “I missed the magic self-driving car.” You’ll still be in trouble, but it sounds a lot cooler than “I missed the bus because I mistook the notes app for my alarm again.”

I’d like to thank Fawna, Vince and everyone at May Mobility for the exciting opportunity to go for a test ride around Indy. Everyone was super friendly and helpful and made this a great experience. If you get the chance to ride with them, I’d highly recommend it.

To learn more, visit www.maymobility.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram @maymobility and Twitter @may_mobility. Visit their YouTube channel to see May Mobility in action on the road and across the country.

May Mobility works in cooperation with the Toyota Mobility Foundation and IndyGo and in partnership with the Energy Systems Network. It’s hosted by the State of Indiana and the City of Fishers.