ARLINGTON, Texas — The City of Arlington welcomed May Mobility, an autonomous vehicle service, to their RAPID on-demand public transportation service.

A grant funded by the Federal Transit Administration helped give May Mobility the green light to pilot a year-long autonomous transit service in conjunction with the City of Arlington, Via Transportation, and The University of Texas at Arlington.  

Senior Autonomous Engineer for May Mobility, Austin Dillow, said it took nearly two years to launch their fleet of Lexus SUV's into the Downtown Arlington community. The cars have been retrofitted with an assortment of cameras, radars and lidar systems to serve as the eyes and ears for the vehicles. 

"I like taking these physical and mechanical designs and breathe in life to them with electronics and software," said Dillow. "Finally seeing the vehicles out in the real world moving passengers is super satisfying." 

A one-way fare around the Downtown Arlington area will cost $3, and the Via mobile app allows UT Arlington students to catch the service for free. The autonomous vehicles operate around a fixed path under 35 mph for now.

Engineers like Dillow are continuing to develop new upgrades for the AI system to make the vehicles more aware of their surroundings. 

"What it's doing is multiple times a second, it's looking at all the objects in the environment, figuring what they are, then the vehicle is making simulations based on the policies that it has available to it," said Dillow. "The vehicle is really good at operating in conditions and environments that it's never seen before." 

A vehicle attendant is behind the steering wheel though, just in case of an emergency. A study is also analyzing the safety features and collecting rider feedback by UTA, as this new age in transportation comes to the forefront in 2021.

"I'm excited about working with the new platforms and improving our autonomous vehicle technology," said Dillow.