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July 27, 2022

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Automated Vehicle Technology comes to Grand Rapids

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Multiple, self-driving vehicles using state-of-the-art technology are coming to Grand Rapids, Minn., according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The demonstration project is one of three in the state, led by MnDOT’s Connected and Automated Vehicles office.

The pilot, called goMARTI, will launch sometime in September 2022 and offer free, on-demand rides to Grand Rapids residents. Although the vehicles are considered self-driving, there will always be an operator on board who will verify the safe operation of the vehicle and aid passengers as needed.

“MnDOT is committed to providing safe, accessible transportation options for all Minnesotans,” said Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger. “The goMARTI project is a great example of several partners collaborating to promote innovation and explore new ways to help Minnesotans travel and stay connected. We look forward to building on these relationships and hearing community feedback on the project!”

Project partners include the city of Grand Rapids, Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, Itasca County, May Mobility, The PLUM Catalyst, Via, University of Minnesota, Arrowhead Transit and Mobility Mania. Each shares a goal of increasing safe, accessible transportation options for residents.

“We are very excited to bring this pilot to Grand Rapids along with so many local partners,” said Tammy Meehan-Russell, Chief Catalyst at The PLUM Catalyst and Project Manager for goMARTI.  “Our team is committed to ensuring that this pilot is accessible to everyone in the community. It implements features such as audio cues for passengers who are visually impaired. It also provides a partnership opportunity with our local First Call 211 service to provide help for individuals to download and navigate the app, place ride requests by phone, and give us workforce development opportunities.”

The pilot marks several firsts for the AV industry. Grand Rapids will receive the first commercial launch of the Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS (S-AM) developed by May Mobility. As the company’s first rural AV route, it also puts accessibility and equity at the forefront with the inclusion of three, first-ever ADA-compliant S-AM vehicles to better serve the Grand Rapids community.

“This first-of-its-kind deployment is a pivotal next step for May Mobility, demonstrating our commitment to transportation accessibility and equity,” said Edwin Olson, CEO of May Mobility. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the city and our partners to meet the community needs and highlight the enormous opportunity for AVs to solve gaps in existing infrastructure.”

During the project, MnDOT and its partners hope to:

  • Advance and inform the operation of automated vehicle technology in rural, winter conditions
  • Engage and educate the local community by providing real-world automated vehicle experiences
  • Provide safe, accessible mobility for residents, especially those with transportation challenges
  • Understand what economic development this innovative pilot brings while attracting future talent and technology to the Iron Range

Throughout the development of this pilot, local involvement has been a top priority in shaping where the shuttles go, hours of operation, and how to ensure access for all residents. The team also collaborated with  NEXT Career Pathways Grand Rapids High School students to create 12 art fixtures along the route that will assist the shuttle in wayfinding. Residents can also look forward to a goMARTI song contest later this summer, which will allow local musicians to enter submissions to be used as the official goMARTI song.

To learn more about the project, residents are encouraged to attend one of several upcoming community events where a goMARTI vehicle and project team members will be present:

Hours of operation and other specifics continue to be discussed. To learn more about the project, community events, hours of operation, and more: gomarti.com