Pennsylvania’s first autonomous vehicle (AV) shuttle is coming to Philadelphia this December. This comes off the heels of Governor Tom Wolf signing HB 2398, an AV bill which allows for the testing and full commercial deployment of AVs on Pennsylvania roads, into law November 3.
Beginning in December, the zero-emissions shuttle pilot will consist of testing, training, and analyzing the shuttle’s performance at the Navy Yard.
Once this testing is complete in early 2023, Phase 1 of the full deployment 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.
The project took a step forward in February 2022 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.
“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 exciting project will enhance accessibility to jobs and amenities in the Navy Yard and potentially cut the use of single occupancy vehicles while reducing emissions. It 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.”
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 assisted the grant proposal, and through its existing contracts with PennDOT will be providing overall program management, technical planning, testing, and deployment expertise.
“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.”
“This is an exciting project, and AECOM is proud to partner with PennDOT, PIDC, the City, and DVRPC to bring the AV shuttle to Philadelphia.” said Michael Girman, Senior Vice President, Transportation, AECOM. “Management of congestion, particularly during construction, is a substantial concern when creating more equitable and efficient transportation infrastructure, and we are always looking for innovative and collaborative ways to solve our region’s transportation challenges.”
“The Drexel University team, which includes Professors Dimitrios Fafalis and Divya Bhargava and their students in the College of Engineering, is delighted to be part of this pilot program,” said Jonathan Spanier, Professor and Head, Drexel University Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics. “Drexel’s participation is well-aligned with two strategic priorities of Drexel 2030. This project harnesses the power of partnership with PennDOT and other transportation infrastructure stakeholders in the region. It also supports the empowering of students to be purpose-driven global citizens through their involvement in activities that seek to understand the potential for AV technology to improve safety and mobility on city streets and through construction zones.”
“The City is proud to host the first AV shuttle in Pennsylvania. Shared autonomous vehicles, such as this zero-emission shuttle that will connect the Navy Yard and NRG station, will demonstrate how this innovative technology can support safe and sustainable cities in the future by supporting existing transit systems and expanding their reach,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “This shuttle will bring a new travel option to Philadelphians and support access to the jobs, parks, and opportunities within the Navy Yard.”
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 includes 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.
PIDC reviewed a wide range of mobility options focused on proven reliability and safety, including conducting a public request for proposals (RFP) process. 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.
“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.”
For the first phase of the project, Perrone will deploy the TONY-MEV (a medium electric transit vehicle), which will be fully ADA compliant, all electric, and fully FMVSS compliant. 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.
“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 Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Greater Philadelphia region, established by an Interstate Compact between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey. Members include Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties, plus the City of Chester, in Pennsylvania; and Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Mercer counties, plus the cities of Camden and Trenton, in New Jersey.
DVRPC’s vision for the Greater Philadelphia Region is a prosperous, innovative, equitable, resilient, and sustainable region that increases mobility choices by investing in a safe and modern transportation system; that protects and preserves our natural resources while creating healthy communities; and that fosters greater opportunities for all.
DVRPC’s mission is to achieve this vision by convening the widest array of partners to inform and facilitate data-driven decision-making. We are engaged across the region, and strive to be leaders and innovators, exploring new ideas and creating best practices. Learn more at www.dvrpc.org.
PIDC is Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation. Since acquiring the 1,200-acre site from the federal government in 2000, PIDC has led the development and site operations for the Navy Yard. PIDC’s mission—to spur investment, support business growth, and facilitate developments that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and drive growth to every corner of Philadelphia—strongly informs its strategy for the Navy Yard, where the focus is on building a cohesive community that fosters employment, innovation, and production. PIDC manages all aspects of the Navy Yard, including planning, leasing, property management, infrastructure development, utility operation, and structuring development transactions. For more information about PIDC, visit www.PIDCphila.com and follow us @PIDCphila on Twitter. For more information about the Navy Yard, visit www.navyyard.org and follow us on Twitter @NavyYardPhila.
PennDOT oversees programs and policies affecting highways, urban and rural public transportation, airports, railroads, ports, and waterways. More than three-quarters of PennDOT’s annual budget is invested in Pennsylvania’s approximately 120,000 miles of state and local highways and 32,000 state and local bridges. PennDOT is directly responsible for nearly 40,000 miles of highway and roughly 25,400 bridges, a system first established in 1911.
Roughly 7,200 of PennDOT’s complement of nearly 11,375 employees are engaged in the maintenance, restoration, and expansion of the state highway system. They work in central headquarters in Harrisburg and 11 engineering districts, with facilities in all 67 counties.
PennDOT also administers the state’s 11.8 million vehicle registrations and 10.3 million driver’s licenses and IDs, and oversees safety and emission inspection programs.
About Perrone Robotics, Inc.
Perrone is a leading provider of fully automated vehicle systems. The company delivers mobility excellence via TONY® (short for “TO Navigate You”), a vehicle independent retrofit kit for use in the automated transit of people and goods in geo-fenced and localized operations. TONY embeds inside any vehicle type or model, for any job application to provide a complete “artificial driver” solution that brings full autonomy in a safety certifiable framework. Proven, piloted and in commercial production, Perrone automated systems help commercial, municipal, and governmental customers increase transportation efficiencies, enhance safety, and accelerate zero-emission electric vehicle deployment. The company also offers a portfolio of existing turnkey automated shuttles and vehicles pre-integrated with the TONY retrofit kit. Learn more @ www.perronerobotics.com or follow us @perronerobotics.
About Drexel University College of Engineering
Founded in 1891 in Philadelphia, Drexel is a comprehensive urban university of more than 23,000 students, and a leader in experiential, technology-infused education, enriched by the nation’s premier cooperative- education program. Drexel is rethinking its institutional boundaries and creating a vibrant presence and ecosystem of innovation in and around University City while delivering on the University’s public purpose as an anchor institution for Philadelphia.
As the cornerstone of Drexel, the College of Engineering empowers students to engineer change in their lives and through their careers by emphasizing a balance of theory and practical experience. Faculty scholars and industry experts cultivate technically and theoretically trained adaptable engineers who are dedicated to the discovery and the application of technology, and who understand the global, social and ethical implications of creating sustainable solutions to societal challenges. Through industry and community partnerships, Drexel Engineering is committed to engaging students in capstone learning experiences and helping to drive the advancement of technology and automation in the region.
AECOM is the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, delivering professional services throughout the project lifecycle – from planning, design and engineering to program and construction management. On projects spanning transportation, buildings, water, new energy, and the environment, our public- and private-sector clients trust us to solve their most complex challenges. Our teams are driven by a common purpose to deliver a better world through our unrivaled technical expertise and innovation, a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion, and a commitment to environmental, social and governance priorities. AECOM is a Fortune 500 firm and its Professional Services business had revenue of $13.3 billion in fiscal year 2021. See how we are delivering sustainable legacies for generations to come at aecom.com and @AECOM.
PIDC: Jacob Dillon, Director, Navy Yard Marketing and Communications
jdillon@PIDCphila.com / 215-218-2856 | Cell: 757-705-9281
DVRPC: Elise Turner, Manager, Office of Communications and Engagement
firstname.lastname@example.org / 215-435-0379 (cell)
PennDOT: Erin Waters-Trasatt, Communications Director
email@example.com / 717-873-8800
Drexel: Britt Faulstick, Executive Director of Media Relations, Drexel University
firstname.lastname@example.org / 215.895.2617