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Perrone Robotics Wins Contract for First Automated Shuttle in Pennsylvania

by Renee Knight

Beginning this summer, Pennsylvania’s first automated shuttle will transport passengers in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard. 

To make that happen, PIDC, Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation, recently awarded Perrone Robotics with a two-phased AV shuttle and services contract, according to a news release. 

In the project’s first phase, Perrone will deploy the TONY-MEV, a medium electric transit vehicle that’s built on the Ford 350HD chassis, is fully ADA compliant and comes equipped with advanced battery-electric powertrain manufactured and installed by Lightning eMotors. The vehicle will be integrated with Perrone’s TONY (To Navigate You) technology that converts the shuttle to fully automated capabilities. 

Aside from the operator, who will be on board during the pilot, the shuttle can carry nine passengers and a wheelchair. The wheelchair ramp feature will be accessible from a standard roadside curb.  

During phase one, the shuttle will augment existing transportation services between key locations within the Navy Yard. In phase two, the AV will connect the Navy Yard to SEPTA’s NRG Station on the Broad Street subway line and adjacent to the Sports Complex and FDR Park.

The shuttle is funded by the Travel Options Program, a grant program of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) that awards funds for innovative projects. The goal is to provide improved access to more travel options while also focusing on climate action and air quality improvement, equity, reliability, freedom of choice and affordability.

The AV project will enhance Navy Yard access and help reduce congestion and carbon emissions in the area. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will oversee regulatory approvals and is partnering with researchers at Drexel University to analyze shuttle performance and rider feedback. That information will be used to inform future deployments. 

Infrastructure consulting firm AECOM contributed to the grant proposal, and, through its existing contracts with PennDOT, will provide program management, technical planning, testing and deployment expertise.

“The deployment of the AV shuttle in Philadelphia has been a vision AECOM has been partnering with the City on since 2018. We understand the important need to provide supplemental transit services to all Philadelphians and those visiting the Navy Yard and Sport Complex areas,” said Dan Corey, AECOM’s vice president, director of strategic solutions global transportation, according to the release. “We’re thrilled to support this important project with innovative, sustainable and collaborative solutions that are accessible to all while leaving a positive impact on the environment and prioritizing safety.”

PIDC leads the development and site operations for the Navy Yard, including its Navy Yard Transit program, which operates two routes to NRG Station and Center City Philadelphia. This project will support a growing community of 15,000 employees, 8 million square feet of mix-use facilities that includes office, industrial, R&D, life sciences and institutional space. There are plans to add office, laboratories and clean spaces, retail, restaurants and hotels, and residential buildings, parks, greenways and amenities over the next 20 years.

“We are honored and excited to be part of this forward-thinking program with PIDC, DVRPC, PennDOT, AECOM, and Drexel University, to bring the world’s first automated Buy America, FMVSS, and ADA-compliant transit van to the city of Philadelphia,” Perrone Robotics Founder and CEO Paul Perrone said, according to the release. “This program will be a national example of the power of private-public partnerships to connect communities through safety-enhanced mobility solutions. We look forward to providing our TONY AV driver for the streets of Philadelphia and beyond to meet the growing demand across the United States and worldwide.”

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