Transportation planners face many challenges; among the most vexing, figuring out how to integrate self-driving vehicles into the daily fabric of their cities. With AV technology rapidly changing, figuring out how to benefit from it requires a leap into the unknown for city officials who want to offer their citizens safe and reliable transportation alternatives.
Many self-driving vehicle companies assume cities will be wowed simply by the magic of their technical innovation, but they don’t realize that shiny new vehicles and fancy tech don’t win trust on their own. In this industry, rider buy-in requires education and familiarity to build trust and understanding. Transportation is only a solution if the community is using it—self-driving or not.
At May Mobility, we’re launching self-driving shuttles into the daily fabric of cities across the U.S., with the philosophy that education is vital to adoption and an ultimate positive impact on transportation.
Low-speed self-driving is the best way to begin to build trust with cities and their public. Low-speed vehicles operate in ways that are safer for pedestrians and other road users, and in our early routes, people are more comfortable riding in our self-driving cars because they’re comfortable with the lower speed. We’ll continue to lay the groundwork with our low-speed approach to help our customers (both public and private) and riders understand the self-driving vehicle space—both their capabilities today and the promise they provide.
The best way to prepare for the benefits of a self-driving future is to begin the dialogue now. Our approach to building trust can be explained in three steps.
STEP 1: START WITH THE AV INDUSTRY BASICS.
Self-driving vehicles are still a thing of mystery for many, and it’s important to help everyone understand the vocabulary of the AV industry–the different levels of automation; the operating differences of the sensors such as camera, lidar, and radar; and even how the software works to drive the vehicle.
We meet regularly with state and city Departments of Transportation to help educate the planners and other community partners to make the best decisions on how to understand and evaluate the technology and, ultimately, what to consider in introducing this technology into their communities.
STEP 2: TELL THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH.
This is an ongoing challenge in an incredibly competitive industry that has been geared towards overpromising and under delivering. We believe it’s our responsibility to provide a reality check of what is being shared by others in the space and dispel the hype.
This step relies on the success of Step 1. Laying out an initial education about the industry at large provides the foundation to talk about the technology, while also creating a framework within to evaluable the growing amount of information city officials are receiving about self-driving vehicles. Staying transparent about what self-driving vehicles can do—and what they can’t do yet—is vital to safe and continuing adoption.
STEP 3: BRING AV IN AS AN ADDITIONAL OPTION; SUPPORT MULTIMODAL TRANSIT PLANNING.
We continue to demonstrate that the future of transportation is in multimodal planning, which looks beyond the car to include protected bike lanes, mixed traffic lanes for micro shuttles, and high-capacity public transit. Low-speed self-driving transportation plays an important role in the multimodal transit toolbox.
As more people move into cities with limited choices for transit that seem largely inefficient, people will continue to spend an increasingly large part of their day working through congested cities to get to and from where they need to be. Introducing more transportation choices, and building the infrastructure for it from the very beginning of urban planning, can make roadways safer, more efficient, and less time-consuming for travelers.
BONUS: FLEET ATTENDANTS AS PART OF THE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PLAN.
Currently, no company is able to put Level 4 or 5 vehicles on the road without a human behind the steering wheel. We call these human monitors our Fleet Attendants and treat them as an important part of our community engagement and education team. They put a friendly face to self-driving vehicles in the cities where we operate and assist in making sure each ride is not only enjoyable but also a great learning experience.
We understand that many people are unsure of self-driving vehicles. We recognize that there is still room for growth and advancement in autonomous technology. But it is important that we begin to have a dialogue today with the public through the cities who have the capability to present and educate their citizens about the capabilities of this technology.