Self-driving shuttles bound for Detroit enter testing phase

May Mobility shuttles testing at Mcity in Ann Arbor. The shuttles will serve older adults and those with disabilities in Detroit. Photo via University of Michigan

Testing is now underway for the University of Michigan's new automated shuttle program that will one day transport seniors and people with disabilities around the city of Detroit.

If all goes well, self-driving shuttles will begin chauffeuring people around the city by 2024.

But before the new-age public transportation can become reality, the shuttles will need to undergo months of testing to ensure they can make complex decisions in dangerous driving scenarios. The pilot project will be evaluated at the school's Mcity Test Facility through February. After that, testing will continue at a mobility center in Ypsilanti for high-speed practice.

Buoyed by a $2.4 million contract with the city's Office of Mobility Innovation earlier this year, plans are for the automated shuttles to deploy in June of next year.

"Automated vehicles have the potential to make transportation safer and cleaner while ensuring equitable access to mobility options—but only if consumers can trust the vehicles are safe," said Mcity Director Henry Liu.

MORE: Retro license plates returning to Michigan, including one celebrating country's 250th anniversary

Those eligible for the shuttles include adults who are older than 65, a person with a disability, and live in either one of the two "zones" designated in the city.

  • West Zone residents include: Virginia Park Community, Russell Woods, Boston Edison, New Center, North End, Elijah McCoy, LaSalle Gardens, and Dexter/Linwood
  • East Zone residents include: Islandview, Eastern Market, McDougall Hunt/Greater Villages, Lafayette Park, and Elmwood Park

The city says there is potential for the shuttle service to expand from those two zones.

East and west zones where Detroit's automated shuttle service will operate.

The school has been doing virtual testing of its new automated vehicles that you can see online here.

The self-driving shuttles are only some of the mobility news coming out of the city of Detroit. On Wednesday, officials revealed a new wireless charging road that opened in front of Michigan Central.

Coils were laid beneath the pavement and hooked up to the grid. When vehicles with the appropriate receiver are attached to the bottom, they can charge without stopping. 


First wireless charging road in U.S. unveiled in Detroit

The quarter-stretch of roadway will be open near Michigan Central Station, where Detroit's mobility district is gathering steam.