New Autonomous Shuttle Connects Detroit Seniors with Local Hospital


A partnership of authorities across the state is using an autonomous shuttle to transport the elderly and the needy to and from the hospital for appointments. // Photo courtesy of Navya

For the first time, a self-driving, accessible paratransit shuttle will be deployed to transport seniors and those in need to and from appointments and other needs at a Detroit hospital.

The effort – a partnership between Navya, NextEnergy, Bestmile, Flagstar Bank, IXR Mobility and AARP, and DTE and Michigan’s Future Mobility and Electrification Office PlanetM – will improve accessibility for residents of two communities, Brush Park Manor Senior Center and Brewster Homes.

The self-propelled shuttle has an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp from BraunAbility.

With the integrations, the service helps residents of each community attempt to ensure reliable transportation to and from doctor appointments and other essential or critical needs at the Detroit Medical Center.

This operation, which is the result of a 2019 PlanetM Mobility Grant granted to Navya for the use of an industry-leading, automated and accessible paratransit shuttle in Detroit, aims to help solve today’s most critical mobility, accessibility and transportation difficulties to deal with, including traffic congestion reduction and advanced pedestrian and traffic safety.

Navya, based in France, operates an assembly plant in Saline. The facility has more than 30 employees.

“We have the ability and responsibility to leverage our state’s resilient mobility ecosystem and resources to ensure that future transportation solutions better serve our communities,” said Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s chief mobility officer. “By working closely with our state between our public and private sectors, we can leverage next-generation technologies to create a future where safer and more complete mobility services for residents are paramount.”

From mid-August 2020, a Navya Autonom Shuttle was put into operation on a pre-programmed 1.31-mile route, with a security officer on board overseeing the vehicle provided by IXR Mobility.

In addition to the pure autonomy service, a companion on board serves a variety of security purposes during this process, for which security is the top priority, including educating passengers about the technology of the shuttle and assisting passengers with boarding and disembarking.

Operation is critical to “building trust in autonomous mobility and connecting disadvantaged transportation, seniors and people with disabilities to healthcare, local farmers markets and pharmacies (via) the self-driving Navya shuttle,” said Ray Smith, owner of IXR Mobility and Mobility Inclusion.

The shuttle runs Monday through Friday and serves residents of the Brush Park Senior Center and Brewster Homes during opening hours from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It runs until mid-October 2020. The shuttle service is closed to the public and exclusively for residents of each community.

“Brush Park Manor welcomes the opportunity to participate in such an innovative service for our seniors. Since transportation is one of the most difficult challenges facing seniors, this service will ensure they have the convenience, efficiency and safety to access reliable transportation, ”said E. Kern Tomlin, Chairman of the Board of Brush Park Manor.

The free shuttle service offers a unique solution for those who may not be able to use traditional transportation. namely the elderly, the disabled and those who do not have traditional transport or who cannot afford the costs associated with traditional transport. ON

The service is a fully ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp manufactured by BraunAbility especially for the Navya-Shuttle.

Bestmile, the world’s leading provider of fleet orchestration and optimization for self-driving vehicles, supports the service. Bestmile’s platform and mobile apps enable residents of Brush Park Manor and Brewster Homes to benefit from a predictable and reliable self-driving transit service.

The team has also taken significant steps to improve the safety and hygiene of the shuttle during the COVID-19 pandemic. Passengers and operators must wear masks and be invited to social distance by using and respecting the designated seating areas.

Seats and surfaces are disinfected between every journey. There is a touchless hand disinfectant dispenser as well as antibacterial, viral and alcohol-based wipes on board. The shuttle service follows the hygiene guidelines implemented by the state and federal governments.

The operation is supported by NextEnergy, a partner of PlanetM and a Michigan state institution providing funding and escrow services to support a successful pilot launch. Other project partners are Flagstar Bank in Troy and DTE Energy in Detroit.


Dusty Kennedy