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Autonomous vehicles with a safety attendant will shuttle NY commuters. Photo: Optimus Ride

A flurry of recent developments shows how innovative companies are targeting real transportation problems in American cities.

Driving the news: Optimus Ride begins automated-vehicle service Wednesday at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a 300-acre industrial park.

  • 6 automated electric shuttles will carry passengers on a closed, 1-mile loop throughout the campus that includes a new ferry stop and the Yard's Cumberland Gate at Flushing Avenue.
  • With no other public transit on the site, the shuttles are a vital cog for some New Yorkers' multimodal commute.

Details: In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Via is launching an on-demand paratransit service in partnership with the city's public transit system, The Rapid.

  • The 6-month pilot will offer seniors and persons with disabilities on-demand transportation service, with 15 minutes or less wait time.
  • The app-based service is intended to replace the city's current paratransit system, which requires reservations up to 4 days ahead.

Also in Grand Rapids (a new hotbed of mobility innovation), May Mobility recently launched its driverless shuttles on a 3.2-mile downtown bus route in the city.

  • The 6-passenger shuttles are staffed by a safety attendant in the driver's seat and have a top speed of 25 mph.
  • The program, funded by a public-private partnership, aims to address congestion issues in the city and introduce alternative modes of transportation.

Go deeper: Women are less trusting of self-driving cars

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.

Black Friday in-store shopping up from 2020 but trails pre-pandemic levels

Shoppers carry their purchases during Black Friday shopping at Fashion Outlets of Chicago in Rosemont of Greater Chicago Area, Illinois on Nov. 26, 2021. Photo: Joel Lerner/Xinhua via Getty Images

More shoppers flocked to stores on Black Friday this year compared to last, but online shopping was lower than expected, according to data from Friday.

Driving the news: Online shopping was on the lower end of what was expected, largely because people had been ringing up their shopping carts earlier in the year in an effort to skirt potential supply chain issues, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.