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Autonomous shuttle service for people with disabilities preparing to launch in Detroit

'I was really leery at first when I heard about autonomous vehicles, but it was amazing'
Posted at 4:42 PM, Jun 12, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The city of Detroit is launching a new, free shuttle service using autonomous vehicles. That means the vehicles are capable of driving themselves.

VIDEO: See how the autonomous shuttle works

VIDEO: See how the autonomous shuttle works

The service, called Accessibili-D, is for people ages 62 and over and people with disabilities. The three shuttles officially launch June 20, but the city provided a sneak peek on Wednesday.

Lisa Franklin, CEO of Warriors on Wheels, participated in the ride-along.

"I was really leery at first when I heard about autonomous vehicles, but it was amazing," she said.

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Lisa Franklin, CEO of Warriors on Wheels, participates in a ride-along on Accessibili-D with 7 News Detroit. (June 12, 2024)

She said she was initially leery because the word "autonomous" is often synonymous with "driverless."

However, Detroit's chief of mobility innovation Tim Slusser said, for the time being, each shuttle will be equipped with a safety operator for safety purposes.

“Right now, here in the city of Detroit, this is an autonomous shuttle program. So, it will be fully driverless. But when we say driverless in Detroit right now, we mean the vehicle has capability of driving itself. We're still going to have what's referred to as a safety operator behind the wheel, so that if anything comes up, it's a level of redundancy (and) a level of safety," he explained.

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Tim Slusser, Detroit's chief of mobility innovation, talks about the new autonomous shuttle Accessibili-D with 7 News Detroit reporter Darren Cunningham. (June 12, 2024)

Franklin said, “I was very secure. I felt very secure.”

She said she was impressed at how the vehicle maneuvered on its own.

“There was a cyclist who came out in front of (us), and the car actually braked — abruptly," Franklin described. “And when it was driving, the crosswalks, it was able to stop on its own and turn on its own."

Accessibili-D

Overall, Franklin said being able to schedule or catch a shuttle on-demand makes a huge difference for those who use a wheelchair.

“I was injured at 36. I drove myself and after I was injured, I realized the lack of being able to be independent, and so this takes it to a different level,” she said.

Accessibili-D

The city said the initial route will include 68 stops covering an 11-square-mile area.

"That’ll run basically from downtown to Connor on the east side, south of Gratiot,” Mayor Mike Duggan said. “It’ll operate six days a week and have the seniors, the disabled community in this area be able to get a free ride.”

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Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan talks about the new autonomous shuttle in the city called Accessibili-D. (June 12, 2024)

The shuttle service provided by May Mobility runs through 2025. Residents can schedule rides and view the 68 stops through the Accessibili-D mobile app.

The city said the free program is made possible "by a $2.4 million in contracts and grants from the USDOT and philanthropic partners."