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Arlington self-driving shuttle program passes 45,000 rides nearly 3 years into service

A man wearing a gray sweatshirt holds his hands above the wheel of an autonomous van. He has a mount for his phone, a console showing vehicle operations and a laptop where his passenger seat should be. He's driving on an open road with parked cars and a pedestrian clearing a crosswalk.
Kailey Broussard
Chris Hollwedel monitors an Arlington RAPID vehicle during a demonstration Dec. 1, 2023. The city of Arlington partnered with May Mobility, UTA and the microtransit service Via to launch an autonomous vehicle service that has operated around downtown and UT Arlington since 2021.

A program that lets people take a self-driving vehicle to destinations in UT Arlington and downtown has logged 45,000 rides as of late November.

The program is one of multiple on-demand services the city offers through its app, Arlington Transit. Riders near campus can opt to take a self-driving van to their destination if it’s in the 1-square-mile service area. Autonomous Vehicle Operators (AVOs) keep their hands just above the steering wheel and take over if needed.

Matt Fortune, site manager for the operating company May Mobility, said the program gives thousands of rides to people who use the program for their daily commute.

“My goal is to really just prove that this is a great product that can really help transform public transit for their communities,” Fortune said. “Hopefully we can expand it to include more people and hopefully include all of Arlington at some point.”

The nearly three-year-old program known as Arlington RAPID (Rideshare, Automation and Payment Integration Demonstration) is funded by the city, Federal Transit Administration and the North Central Texas Council of Governments and run in partnership with May Mobility, UTA and Via, the microtransit company that operates Arlington’s publicly subsidized rideshare service.

The goal of RAPID? To get people comfortable with autonomous vehicle technology as it becomes more available. Fortune said May Mobility operators are trained to take over the ride when necessary and if riders are uncomfortable.

“We want to prioritize safety, the customer’s comfort and then, we’re going to try to prioritize autonomy,” he said.

Arlington RAPID has not reported any safety incidents or crashes to date.

The program is funded through spring 2025, according to Ann Foss, planning and programming manager for the city transportation department.

“We’re already talking about what’s going to be our next source of funding to keep it going,” Foss said while presenting to a group of UTA students Friday, Dec. 1.

The RAPID program is Arlington’s third stint with autonomous vehicle transportation services. The city first deployed an autonomous shuttle called Milo, which transported people on walking trails throughout the entertainment district. The pilot program ended in 2018, after a year.

The same year Milo’s pilot ended, Arlington launched an on-street ride program through, which served fixed stops near places including Texas Live! and Esports Stadium Arlington. Both rollouts marked the first time a city offered off-street and on-street autonomous transportation options, respectively.

All three autonomous vehicle programs have marked firsts for any U.S. city, including first off-street service, on-street service and integrated ride-hailing service.

A white van with a light blue swoop boasts several logos and a LIDAR detection mechanism. It stands before construction on new apartments in downtown Arlington on Front Street, with mainstays including Tipsy Oak in the background.
Kailey Broussard
An Arlington RAPID van sits outside May Mobility's headquarters on Arlington's Front Street. The city of Arlington has partnered with the Michigan-based company along with Via and UTA to offer autonomous vehicles in its transportation fleet since 2021.

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Kailey Broussard is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). Broussard covers the city of Arlington, with a focus on local and county government accountability.