New May Mobility exec wants to scale up driverless vehicles

Dec 27, 2022, 6:00 AM | Updated: 6:07 am

In this image provided by Telemetry Agency, Kathy Winter poses for a photo. For more than a decade, Winter has been working to get autonomous vehicles on the road, first at auto supplier Delphi and then as general manager of Intel's autonomous transportation unit. In 2022, she has been named chief operating officer of May Mobility, a 5-year-old autonomous vehicle startup. (Telemetry Agency via AP)

(Telemetry Agency via AP)

DETROIT (AP) — For more than a decade, Kathy Winter has been working to get autonomous vehicles on the road, first at auto supplier Delphi and then as general manager of Intel’s autonomous transportation unit.

Now the 30-year industry veteran has been named chief operating officer of May Mobility, a 5-year-old autonomous vehicle startup, with a mission to scale up service in more markets.

The company is testing self-driving vehicles in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it’s headquartered, as well as Grand Rapids, Minnesota; and Arlington, Texas, all with human safety drivers. It also has run a pilot program in Hiroshima, Japan.

The Associated Press recently interviewed Winter about the future of autonomous vehicles. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Five years ago you said autonomous vehicles would be widely in use before 2030, without humans driving. Is that still realistic?

A: When I look at the progress we’re making, I do think it’ll be well before 2030. May has been targeting the end of 2023 to have the (human) driver out. I think we’re getting a lot more realistic about what it takes. They map very specific areas so that we know exactly where those vehicles are. And then you have things like Tele-assist, which happens to be what May is developing, that helps remotely should there be an issue. If you’re operating a fleet, you have a way to be able to jump in there. That should be extremely rare.

Q: What is standing in the way of pulling the human safety driver out?

A: You have the hardware, the software and the driving policy, but then you have you have the regulatory issues and the liability issues. You think of the state-by-state regulations versus nationwide. Different parts of the world are moving at different paces. I hope that the U.S. really embraces this and tackles those problems, because we’d hate to be the last ones to get the driver out. The technology is progressing well. May has given 320,000 rides. I think it’s more about these other barriers, and then consumer acceptance.

Q: You’re joining May at a time of immense change in the autonomous vehicle business. Ford and Volkswagen just pulled the plug on Argo AI, capital is drying up. Does May have enough to get through?

A: They’ve been realistic on their spend and very conscious of return on investment. I think they’ve kept it right-sized for everything they’ve been doing. Because of that, their time to profitablity is much faster than a lot of the others in the industry who’ve had extremely high (cash) burn rates and extremely high investments with a return on investment that’s way out there. We do make money. So the line of sight to profitability is much faster.

Q: How are you making money?

A: We actually run the service, whether the riders pay for it or whether a municipality or the private sector pays. The mission is to make transit that’s complementary to what might be out there with big busing systems or in places that don’t even have it. We use hybrid vehicles for efficiency. Make it safe, of course. Today there’s a lot of areas where it’s too small of a municipality. They can’t afford a bus system and they don’t have something that’s wheelchair accessible. So this is a great opportunity where May could go in and get extended ridership.

Q: So you’d run a ride-hailing service and a fixed route shuttle?

A: We aren’t fixed route shuttles. We’re really more flexible than that. A user can go point-to-point in that vehicle, within a geo-designed area. The strategy is pick a specific area and map it well, and provide service in that area. You wouldn’t go into an urban area that’s got incredible mass transit. But if you went to, for example, Grand Rapids, Minnesota, you’re not competing with all these other things. You map that area, but you’re not trying to map every inch of the U.S. The team has done a great job of getting where they are today, and I’m just hoping to help them accelerate and scale it in a big way.

Q: Part of the problem in deploying autonomous vehicles is having to interact with humans who break the rules. How will May deal with this?

A: Our vehicles imagine thousands of scenarios every millisecond that could happen. It looks at the most likely scenarios and the highest risk scenarios, and the vehicle makes the decision what to do. So it is simulating and looking at something that’s coming up. It really is how a person would think about things if they could think that fast. You would decide what’s the odds that child standing on the street is going to run into the street. Or what’s the odds that car coming over the center line is going to continue on that trajectory? If it comes up to something like a vehicle stopped, blinking lights, and the only way to get around it is to cross over the centerline and break what would normally be a rule. This is where something like Tele-assist could make that decision.

Q: Does it take the least risky option?

A: It’s always good to go for the safe option. So yes, less risky.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Strikes, protests hit France in round 2 of pension battle

PARIS (AP) — French labor leaders hope to bring more than 1 million demonstrators again into the streets Tuesday in the latest clash of wills with the government over its plans to push back France’s retirement age. For both sides, the nationwide strikes and protests are an important test. French President Emmanuel Macron’s government says […]
2 hours ago
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquart...
Associated Press

Asian shares fall in muted trading ahead of Fed meeting

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares mostly fell in muted trading Tuesday as investors awaited decisions on interest rates and earnings reports from around the world. Traders were awaiting the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates, expected on Wednesday. They also were watching for indicators on the Chinese economy, the region’s key engine for growth. […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday: It’s delivering its final 747 jumbo jet. Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport for NASA’s space shuttles, and the Air Force One […]
1 day ago
FILE - A worker loads boxes of goods from a truck outside a wholesale clothing mall in Beijing on T...
Associated Press

Chinese factory activity rebounds, adding to recovery signs

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese factory activity rebounded in January from three months of contraction, adding to signs the world’s second-largest economy might be recovering from a painful slump, an official survey showed Tuesday. A monthly purchasing managers’ index issued by the Chinese statistics agency and an industry group rose to 50.1 on a 100-point scale […]
1 day ago
Visitors try out Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Book2 at its shop in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan....
Associated Press

Samsung’s profit plummets amid global economic woes

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics said Tuesday its profit for the last quarter plummeted nearly 70% as a weak global economy depressed demand for its consumer electronics products and computer memory chips. The company’s operating profit of 4.3 trillion won ($3.5 billion) for the three months through December fell 69% from a year […]
1 day ago
A trishaw driver wades through a crowded street at the frozen Houhai Lake in Beijing, Monday, Jan. ...
Associated Press

IMF upgrades outlook for the global economy in 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — The outlook for the global economy is growing slightly brighter as China eases its zero-COVID policies and the world shows surprising resilience in the face of high inflation, elevated interest rates and Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. That’s the view of the International Monetary Fund, which now expects the world economy to […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
New May Mobility exec wants to scale up driverless vehicles