by Navy Yard
December 20, 2023
Pennsylvania’s first autonomous vehicle (AV) shuttle has officially arrived at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and is ready to begin operations starting in early January 2024. The arrival of the electric, zero-emissions shuttle comes after much planning, testing, and coordination between public and private organizations.
The project was announced 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 AV shuttle is another example of the Navy Yard’s commitment to long-term sustainability and resiliency by helping reduce the use of single-occupancy vehicles, lessen congestion, and decrease carbon emissions on a campus home to 150 businesses and 15,000 employees. The AV shuttle will be incorporated into the Navy Yard’s existing shuttle service that connects visitors and employees to SEPTA’s NRG Station and Center City.
“DVRPC, PennDOT, Perrone Robotics, AECOM, and Drexel University have all been instrumental partners in bringing the Commonwealth’s first AV shuttle to the Navy Yard,” said Kate McNamara, PIDC’s Senior Vice President at the Navy Yard. “The Navy Yard has always been a home to innovation – from its rich history as a naval base where aviation and shipbuilding were pioneered to the present with more than 150 companies in sectors such as industrial trades, manufacturing, shipbuilding and repair, cell and gene therapy, health care, and more. The addition of the AV shuttle continues that tradition of innovation in a sustainable and resilient way and ensures equitable access to quality jobs at the Navy Yard.”
The Navy Yard AV shuttle was funded by the Travel Options Program, a grant program of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC).
“This exciting project will enhance accessibility to jobs and amenities in the Navy Yard, while reducing the dependence on single occupancy vehicles,” said Ariella Maron, DVRPC Executive Director. “The funding of innovative projects that encourage the use of alternatives to driving alone is the idea behind DVRPC’s Travel Options Program (TOP), and we are pleased to award a TOP grant to help fund the first AV shuttle in Greater Philadelphia and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This milestone is the culmination of ongoing public-private partnerships and forward thinking planning, and we believe it is just the beginning of our region’s growing menu of electric and autonomous travel options.”
The AV shuttle is the world’s first automated Buy America, FMVSS, and ADA-compliant transit van, which utilizes 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.
“We are thrilled to participate in this groundbreaking journey with PIDC, DVRPC, PennDOT, AECOM, and Drexel University, to deploy a pioneering achievement in urban mobility: the world’s inaugural automated Buy America, FMVSS, and ADA-compliant Ford E-Transit van, right in the heart of Philadelphia,” expressed Paul Perrone, CEO and founder of Perrone Robotics. “This venture stands as a testament to the transformative impact of collaborative innovation, blending public and private sectors to forge pathways in advanced, safety-enhanced transportation. As we roll out the TONY AV driver on Philadelphia’s vibrant streets, we’re not just navigating roads; we’re charting a bold course for future cities in the United States and across the globe. This is more than a project; it’s a mobility revolution, and we are proud to be at its helm with world class partners.”
In the first phase of deployment, the Navy Yard AV shuttle will operate, with a back-up operator on board, around the Navy Yard campus to circulate Navy Yard employees and visitors around the campus. Then in Phase 2, which is expected to begin in the coming months, it will connect the Navy Yard to SEPTA’s NRG Station on the Broad Street subway line.
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.
“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.”
Drexel’s support of this project is an extension of its commitment to enabling equitable economic growth throughout Philadelphia,” said Dr. Jonathan Spanier, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics in Drexel’s College of Engineering. “The work of Professor Dimitrios Fafalis and his students will provide important information on how this program can continue to improve, in hopes of expanding access to public transportation for people throughout the city.”
“Autonomous vehicles have demonstrated a unique potential to improve transportation safety and accessibility in use cases around the country,” said PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. “We’re excited to shepherd the industry forward in Pennsylvania with projects like this.”
More information about the AV shuttle and Navy Yard Transit can be found on the Navy Yard website.
About PIDC | The Navy Yard
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. www.PIDCphila.com | www.navyyard.org
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. www.dvrpc.org
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. www.penndot.pa.gov
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. www.perronerobotics.com
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. www.drexel.edu/engineering
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 $14.4 billion in fiscal year 2022. www.aecom.com