Join us to participate in the upcoming 2019 City:One Challenge. 

Chariot (formerly "Autonomous shuttles")

Autonomous cars are going to solve all public transit problems, from a variety of angles.

Photo of Chad Gainor
3 0

Written by

Busses are good low-cost forms of transportation, but road congestion makes bus schedules unreliable.
Biking is increasing in popularity, and greenway infrastructure should continue to be developed, but that gets easier when there are less cars on roads.

Autonomous cars represent a turning point in human transit; one on-demand shuttle should be able to retire 10-15 personal vehicles, reducing transit costs and complexities for people, while reducing road congestion and subsequent transit times.

Autonomous cars will be fleet vehicles, that will be summoned via apps, and paid for on a per-use basis. I expect the major players in this new industry to be ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, which have on-demand transit infrastructure in place, as well as partnerships with major auto manufactures, and public autonomous betas in a variety of cities.

Expect companies like Google and Apple to also offer autonomous fleet vehicles, along with car rental companies such as Enterprise and Hertz.

For the purpose of a $100k pilot, I'd replicate what May Mobility has in place for Bedrock employees in Detroit. 1-2 fully-autonomous vehicles, which users can summon when needed via a smartphone application.

WAIT, Grand Rapids just announced they're doing exactly what is outlined in this idea -


So, we're on the same page so far.

Let's go to the next page.

Free public autonomous shuttles are amazing, but at first they will only increase traffic congestion in their area of operation. The key to a smooth transition into autonomy is retiring personal vehicles; most of the users of the autonomous shuttle pilot (outside of those who will be riding it purely for entertainment purposes) likely live downtown, and don't have personal vehicles.

My idea, for the sake of this competition, is to buy a Tesla car, develop an Uber-alternative app, and execute a campaign similar to the Obama administration's 2009 "Cash for Clunkers" program, which would allow a select group of people to trade in their personal vehicles, in exchange for on-demand transit credits (or free transportation, for the duration of the pilot), for transportation between point A and B. Users would be ferried between home and the 22 stops around the DASH West route of the May Mobility pilot.

So there would be a fixed shuttle service on city interior, and autonomous taxis would bring people to/from stops along that route, so long as they live within the defined service areas (areas to be determined, but concept defined in attached image).

Additionally, the location of May Mobility shuttles could be monitored, and passengers could be dynamically sent to DASH West stops ahead of the May Mobility shuttle pickups. 

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

Anyone who drives, but lives too far away from core autonomous routes to properly utilize them.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

I'm a computer repair guy/landlord. I fix iPhones, make websites, serve on 5 city/civic boards, mentor college hackathons, etc. I previously participated in/shared ideas with the Ford Go Detroit Challenge, the output of which was Ford buying Michigan Central Station. My technology is straight out of 2030; wearables only, custom systems for everything, running on servers/networks I built. Fun stuff. My smart house makes your smart house look stupid. My website is

Size of your team or organization

  • I am submitting as an individual

Funding Request

  • $50,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

I'd buy an electric car, develop a website outlining the idea, print some flyers, and go around downtown parking structures, putting flyers on cars that match program criteria (old, poor condition, poor fuel economy). Aforementioned website would contain an application, I'd build a heat map of interested participants, and define a service area around 5-10 of the applicants. I'd interview candidates, select the best ones, take possession of their personal vehicles, and operate aforementioned electric car similar to Uber/Lyft service, during May 2019. I'd gather feedback from the riders during daily fares, and compile data required for proper monetization of a larger-scale system. A used 4-5 year-old Tesla Model S would cost around $40,000; I chose this car because it is already equipped for autonomous operation, and will eventually operate itself on Tesla's autonomous vehicle network, with integrated payment systems and all of that. I'd develop all required software.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

If we can get 5-10 cars off of the roads for 1 month, and the program participants don't want to go back to owning a vehicle, they're customers moving forward. We'd add up cost-savings for program participants. Car insurance, parking, fuel, and maintenance; if the first number is higher than the cost of the transit services provided, that would go a long way to building a marking strategy for future development efforts.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tom Bulten

Thanks for the proposal, Chad! It builds on the existing transit network and invites people to ditch their cars for "Mobility as a Service." Lyft is trying something similar next month: Ford owns a service called "Chariot" ( Is your proposed service connected? Or is the name coincidental?

Photo of Chad Gainor

Love it. Thanks for the link. It’s so cool, seeing all of this develop properly.

The “ditch your car” tag line works. Headline on flyers.

”The average cost of owning a car and driving it 15,000 miles a year is about $8,500, according to AAA.”

Photo of Chad Gainor

Oh yeah the name.

Its just a name ive been associating with autonomy-related stuff for the past 6 years or so.

I noticed Ford bought a startup called Chariot; wonder what thier plans are for it?

Something like “Link” would work as well.