Toyota has just led May Mobility’s B round financing totalling 50 million US dollars, which also included BMW iVentures among others. The financing should allow the Michigan-based startup to expand every aspect of the company as well as its autonomous electric shuttle fleet.
May Mobility has 25 autonomous low-speed shuttles spread out between Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan and Providence, Rhode Island. The startup wants to build that number up to 25 vehicles per city.
Besides Toyota, other return investors include BMW iVentures, Millennium Technology Value Partners and Cyrus Capital Partners. Sparx Group is a new investor in the Series B round. Earlier this year, May Mobility partnered with Magna, BMW iVentures and Toyota AI, when the company wanted to develop a wheelchair-accessible prototype of its self-driving electric shuttle.
While further details of the current collaboration have not been disclosed, the continued vote of confidence is more than financial: Toyota has also selected May Mobility as one of its partners to develop autonomous transportation-as-a-service for future mobility platforms. It seems most likely that Toyota will pair May Mobility’s autonomous vehicle technology with the Toyota e-Palette, a platform the automaker unveiled in 2018 at CES in Las Vegas.
This platform – where a standard electric platform can be fitted with interchangeable logistics or passenger upper bodies – is similar to concepts currently being floated by a number of players. A visit to the CES technology trade fair in Las Vegas at the beginning of this year confirmed an already growing impression that autonomous electric shuttles with interchangeable pods are the next step for electric mobility. Somewhat late to pick up on the idea, at Hanover IAA this year, VW Commercial Vehicles presented four concepts illustrating the way autonomous electric shuttles can become the basis for new business ideas, of course, technically based on their modular electric drive system (MEB).
May Mobility co-founder and COO Alisyn Malek told TechCrunch that May Mobility will be working with Toyota to identify market opportunities. Malek said they will be one of the Japanese automakers primary partners in co-development to bring those platforms out to market. “They really believe in the transportation-as-a-service work that we’re doing and want to support that,” Malek said.
“May Mobility already has a track record of commercialising autonomous driving shuttles in the U.S., and we see this as an exciting opportunity to collaborate with a seasoned partner in this area,” said Keiji Yamamoto, Toyota Operating Officer and President of Toyota’s in-house Connected Company.
To date, May Mobility’s current fleet of electric vehicles has provided more than 170,000 rides with an enterprise service working with both public and private customers.
“I would argue they’re a mobility company, and that is not just an autonomy company,” said Jim Adler, founding managing director of Toyota AI Ventures. “… Their job is to move people, and they happen to use really cool tech and do it at a good price point.”