It's My First Day: Self-driving Mobility Shuttle Pulled Over in Rhode Island

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Self-driving shuttle company May Mobility expanded its operations to include Rhode Island this week. The state agreed to pay the firm $800,000 for the first year of operations, allowing it to get its six-passenger micro shuttles running between an Amtrak station and downtown Providence as part of an ongoing pilot program.

However, one of the shuttles was pulled over just hours after entering service for a rather baffling reason.

Apparently, the officer who initiated the stop just wanted to have a look at the vehicle. Given that May Mobility spent the greater part of the last month ensuring the shuttle was plastered all over local media, we’re left wondering how this particular law enforcement official could have possibly missed the memo.

According to Automotive News, Lindsay Lague, a public information officer for the office of public safety in Providence, said the officer in question issued no tickets or warnings to the safety attendant inside the autonomous vehicle. “Given the fact that the shuttle service just kicked off this morning,” she said, “the officer was not familiar with the odd-looking vehicle.”

“As part of our debut in Providence, we’ve spent the last month meeting with public safety officials and community leaders to introduce them to our service,” Alisyn Malek, May Mobility’s co-founder and COO, said in a statement. “Our goal is to educate the broader community about May Mobility’s shuttle, so they will start to see us as part of their transportation options.”

She said that people are naturally curious when they see one of the green-and-white shuttles, adding, adding, “We welcome that interest.”

If you’ve never seen one in action — which is likely, as they currently operate in a select number of U.S. cities — May Mobility’s are rather striking. But they’re also riddled with corporate branding, leaving us to wonder what exactly got the officer so worked up. Surely they could have radioed in to ask what the shuttle was doing. Was this a city-sponsored publicity stunt, a case of an officer with nothing better to do, or a cover-up for some minor autonomous snafu? We haven’t the slightest, but Providence maintains that the officer’s curiosity simply got the better of him.

Currently, May Mobility operates shuttles in Detroit, Michigan, and Columbus, Ohio. Service in Providence launched on Wednesday and will be free to passengers for one year. Service in Grand Rapids, Michigan is slated to commence this summer.

[Images: May Mobility]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
3 of 38 comments
  • DedBull DedBull on May 17, 2019

    If you have to have a "safety attendant" on board to take control at a moment's notice, what does it really gain you? You're still paying someone who most likely has to be qualified to drive it anyways.

    • Ban-One Ban-One on May 18, 2019

      you don't go from steam locomotive to space shuttle overnight. baby steps.

  • Namstrap Namstrap on May 18, 2019

    It was in the early eighties, but I got pulled over by a cop who wanted to talk to me about my Honda CBX. He'd never seen a six cylinder motorcycle before. I was sweating a bit because it was too easy to go faster than expected on that bike.

  • VoGhost It's funny, until CDK raises their prices to cover the cost. And then the stealerships do even more stealing because they're certainly not taking the hit - why do you think they make all those political donations? So who pays in the end?
  • VoGhost I was talking today to a guy who pulled up in an '86 Camry. Said it ran like a top, got 30 mpg, the AC was ice cold and everywhere he goes, people ask to buy it. He seemed happy.
  • VoGhost TL:DL. Younger people less racist.
  • VoGhost None of the commenters who won't buy from China think twice about getting their oil from Saudi Arabia. They may even be filling up with Venezuelan or Russian petroleum, for all they know.
  • Johnny ringo In a word, no-the usual Chinese business model is to invite foreign companies into China as a joint venture, insist on a 49% share in the company-along with technology transfer and then push the foreign partner out and take control. And now with all the sabre rattling going on between the United States and China over Taiwan and the South China Sea and the possibility of a war, I'm not giving any of my money to the Chinese.