May Mobility Is a New Autonomous-Driving Startup With Realistic Expectations

This startup will focus on near-term applications of autonomous-driving tech for commercial fleets. 

Imaginechina via AP Images

May Mobility is yet another startup looking to develop autonomous vehicles. Unlike other companies in the self-driving car game, though, it plans to focus on what is possible now, rather than what may be possible in the future.

The company made its public debut during Investor Y Combinator's recent demo day, according to TechCrunch. Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, May Mobility hopes to market a full suite of autonomous-driving tech to fleet operators, but it will focus on customers operating in business districts, campuses, closed residential communities, and other confined areas that are easy to map.

While other companies are pursuing self-driving cars as part of a comprehensive overhaul of transportation, that kind of technology could take years to develop, Edwin Olson, May Mobility CEO and co-founder, told TechCrunch. In the meantime, May hopes to build a successful business by deploying autonomous vehicles only in situations where it knows the technology will work.

May also has no interest in building its own vehicles. Instead, it will supply an autonomous-driving "stack" to customers that can be retrofitted to existing vehicles. This could prove to be another sensible decision, as it saves May the cost of designing and building its own cars and trucks. May does plan to offer a full array of fleet-management services, though, right down to maintenance and cleaning.

Like startups such as Faraday Future and Lucid Motors, May Mobility hopes to leverage the experience of executives from established automakers. CEO Olson previously conducted autonomous-driving research at Ford and Toyota, while co-founder and COO Alisyn Malek worked for GM Ventures, overseeing the relationship with Cruise Automation before GM bought the startup. Members of May's executive team also worked on the 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge, one of the earliest efforts at spurring development of autonomous vehicles.

May Mobility only came into existence earlier this year, but it hopes to begin full-scale operations with its first customers in 2018. The startup is reportedly in talks to begin up to four pilot projects between now and February, covering both public and private roads.