Free Driverless Rides Coming to Grand Rapids
You may have seen the driverless cars on the streets of downtown Grand Rapids. That service began in July 2019 as a pilot program. It saw peak ridership levels of about 11,000 people a month prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those services were halted in March 2020 due to the pandemic. The service began again in late August 2020 with new social distancing guidelines and cleaning protocols. Since services resumed, ridership has been around 2,000 to 3,000 riders per month.
This summer that original pilot program will come to an end. A newer, expanded program will go in to place. The hope is to have it up and running by July.
With this second phase, people will be able to use their smartphones to hail an autonomous vehicle to give them a ride between downtown Grand Rapids and a few Westside neighborhoods -- for FREE!
Route details for this second phase are still being put together. The plan is for the shuttles will connect downtown with several Westside neighborhoods along the Bridge Street Corridor. The number and location of the access points is also still being finalized.
To hail a ride on this new program, people who have the Via app on their smartphones will be able to request a ride. If you don't have the app or a smartphone, a regular phone can be used to call for a ride.
The current low-speed shuttles that are being used currently will be replaced with road-grade Lexus SUV hybrids. The new Lexus vehicles will still have an attendant present to take over driving if necessary.