DVRPC Funds Pilot AV Shuttle, PIDC Awards Vehicle Contract to Perrone Robotics
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s first automated vehicle (AV) shuttle is coming to Philadelphia this summer. The shuttle will provide visitors and employees with transportation services within the Philadelphia Navy Yard and to SEPTA’s NRG Station located at Broad Street and Pattison Avenue.
The project took a step forward this week when PIDC, Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation, awarded Perrone Robotics, Inc. a two-phased AV shuttle and services contract. The pilot AV shuttle is funded by the Travel Options Program, a grant program of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC). The Travel Options Program 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.
This project will enhance Navy Yard access and also help to reduce congestion and carbon emissions for the region. The Navy Yard AV shuttle deployment will include a backup operator on board during the pilot. 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 contributed to the grant proposal, and through its existing contracts with PennDOT will be providing overall program management, technical planning, testing, and deployment expertise.
The terms of the award include the delivery of the state’s and region’s first 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, and then in 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.
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. As part of PIDC’s mission – to spur investment, support business growth, and foster developments that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and drive growth in every corner of Philadelphia – this AV project will support a growing community of 15,000 employees, 8 million square feet of mix-use facilities that include office, industrial, R&D, life sciences, and institutional space, with plans to add additional office, laboratories and clean spaces, retail, restaurants and hotels, and residential buildings, parks, greenways and amenities over the next 20 years.
After a public request for proposals (RFP) process, PIDC reviewed a wide range of mobility options focused on proven reliability and safety. Perrone Robotics’ successful history of AV deployments across municipal, university, and community projects, made it a clear choice for the pilot project. Perrone’s portfolio of turn-key AV transit and transportation shuttles include small, medium, and large vehicles for use in geofenced and localized operations.
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 state-of-the-art 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.
The automated shuttle is expected to launch in summer 2022.
“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.”
“We are thrilled to partner with DVRPC, PennDOT, Perrone Robotics, AECOM, and Drexel University to deploy Pennsylvania’s first AV shuttle at the Navy Yard,” said Kate McNamara, PIDC’s Senior Vice President, Navy Yard. “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.”
“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,” said Paul Perrone, CEO and founder of Perrone Robotics. “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.”
“Automated technologies have tremendous potential to expand equitable transportation options and enhance safety,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said. “We are committed to safely developing this industry in Pennsylvania and look forward to partnering on this shuttle deployment.”
“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. “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.”