Jan 19, 2024 - News

Philadelphia's first autonomous vehicle coming to the Navy Yard

The automated shuttle at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia

You'll soon share the road with this driverless shuttle in South Philly. Photo: Courtesy of PIDC

A new autonomous shuttle is set to hit the road at the booming Navy Yard.

Why it matters: The pilot program will be the first automated shuttle to transport public passengers in Pennsylvania.

Driving the news: The electric Ford E-Transit van is expected to roll out on the South Philly business campus by the end of January.

  • The driverless shuttle program uses technology from Perrone Robotics. It's a partnership that includes PIDC (which manages the Navy Yard), Drexel University and PennDOT (the state's Department of Transportation).

Zoom out: At least seven other automated vehicle operators are currently testing in Pennsylvania, which requires special approval from the state.

  • Most are centered in the Pittsburgh area, a hub for the autonomous industry.
  • The shuttle at the Navy Yard is the first driverless vehicle to operate in Philly.

Between the lines: The pilot program comes amid the Navy Yard's $6 billion transformation of a former military base into a business, commercial and residential center.

How it works: The driverless shuttle, which will have a human backup driver onboard, will first only operate within the Navy Yard's 1,200-acre campus, transporting people to businesses, restaurants and a hotel.

  • The all-electric shuttle can carry nine passengers and includes a wheel-chair ramp.
  • Within months, the shuttle will also drive on South Broad Street, taking visitors and workers to and from NRG Station as it's incorporated into the Navy Yard's existing shuttle fleet.

Of note: The shuttle's exterior decal was designed by local mural artist Glossblack.

What they're saying: As the Navy Yard grows, the automated shuttle could become a sustainable transportation option and limit the number of vehicles on the campus, Navy Yard spokesperson Jacob Dillon tells Axios.

What's next: As part of the shuttle program, Drexel is conducting a survey for PennDOT to determine passengers' comfort levels with automated vehicles.

  • The survey may be used to inform decisions about how they operate in the state in the future, PennDOT engineering specialist Gunnar Rhone tells Axios.

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