Philadelphia to launch Pennsylvania’s first AV shuttle this summer

March 1, 2022
The zero-emissions shuttle will transport riders within the Philadelphia Navy Yard and to SEPTA’s NRG Station.

Philadelphia, Pa., will see the commonwealth’s first autonomous vehicle shuttle start this summer after PIDC, the city’s public-private economic development corporation, awarded Perrone Robotics, Inc., a two-phased AV shuttle and service contract last week. The shuttle will operate within the Philadelphia Navy Yard, a former military facility that has been redeveloped into a commercial and residential community, and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) NRG Station.

PIDC leads the development and site operations for the Navy Yard, including its Navy Yard Transit program, which currently operates two routes to NRG Station and Center City Philadelphia.

PIDC says the AV shuttle pilot will support a growing community of 15,000 employees and eight million square feet of mix-use facilities.

“Not only will this shuttle provide the Navy Yard’s employees and visitors with additional safe and sustainable transit access around campus and connecting to the region via the subway connection, but it also showcases Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia as a leader in the latest technologies and innovation. We are excited to support this project at the Navy Yard and look forward to launching this summer,” said PIDC Senior Vice President, Navy Yard, Kate McNamara.

PIDC says the project will enhance Navy Yard access and help to reduce congestion and carbon emissions for the region. The pilot is being funded through the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s (DVRPC) Travel Options Program, which is an ongoing regional initiative that awards funds for innovative projects to provide better access to more travel options, while meeting the goals of climate action and air quality improvement, equity, reliability, freedom of choice and affordability.

“The idea behind the Travel Options Program is to fund innovative projects that expand accessibility to and encourage the use of alternatives to driving alone, and we are pleased to fund the first AV shuttle in Greater Philadelphia and in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Barry Seymour, DVRPC executive director. “This project is the culmination of ongoing public-private partnerships, and many years of planning related to new technologies and is just the start of adding more electric and AV vehicles to the menu of travel options in our region.”

The terms of the award include the delivery of a Level 3 (as defined by SAE J3016) automated, zero-emissions, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) compliant, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, Buy America compliant and street-worthy shuttle to transport visitors and employees around the Navy Yard campus. The AV shuttle in Phase 1 will augment existing transportation services between key locations within the Navy Yard.

For the first phase of the project, Perrone will deploy the TONY-MEV (a medium electric transit vehicle), built on the proven Ford 350HD chassis, fully ADA compliant and equipped with a 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 for operations in the Navy Yard. The shuttle can seat nine passengers plus a wheelchair, aside from the operator. The wheelchair ramp feature will be accessible from a standard roadside curb.

Phase 2 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 Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will oversee regulatory approvals and is partnering with researchers at Drexel University to analyze shuttle performance and rider feedback to inform future deployments. The infrastructure consulting firm AECOM assisted the grant proposal, and through its existing contracts with PennDOT will be providing overall 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, vice president, director of strategic solutions global transportation, AECOM.

Paul Perrone, CEO and founder of Perrone Robotics, added, “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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