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Philadelphia Navy Yard Embraces Innovation with Automated Shuttle Launch

December 20, 2023 04:00 PM
By: Mark Kopko

​The Philadelphia Navy Yard, a historic and dynamic area known for its commitment to innovation and sustainability, is taking a significant leap forward with the introduction of an automated shuttle service in partnership with Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), Perrone Robotics, Drexel University, and PennDOT.  This pioneering project represents a fusion of cutting-edge technology and eco-friendly transportation.

The shuttle, a retrofit of the 2023 Ford e-Transit van, encapsulates modern transportation ideals. It's not just an electric vehicle (EV) with a capacity for 9 passengers, but it also adheres to ADA compliance, ensuring accessibility for all. This alignment with environmental sustainability is evident as the EV nature of the shuttle promises reduced carbon emissions, contributing to cleaner air and a healthier city.

Operating initially from 10 AM to 2 PM, the shuttle will navigate a counter-clockwise route through the Navy Yard. This schedule is a starting point, with expansion plans contingent on additional driver availability. The dynamic nature of the Navy Yard, with ongoing construction, means the route will evolve, reflecting the area's constant growth and change.

The introduction of this shuttle service dovetails with PIDC's broader strategy to enhance customer service and supplement existing shuttle routes and PennDOT goal of increasing multi-modal options.

With approximately $350,000 granted by DVRPC from their Travel Options Program, the shuttle embarks on a one-year pilot journey. This period will not only test the shuttle's operational efficacy but also gather public feedback, crucial for future enhancements.

Post the successful completion of its initial phase within the Navy Yard, the shuttle is set to embark on a more ambitious route. The next phase involves extending its journey up Broad Street to NRG station, before looping back, further bridging the gap between the Navy Yard and the broader Philadelphia transit network.

Unlike many automated shuttles that necessitate special designs and NHTSA approval, this project is distinct in its approach, leveraging the familiar framework of a standard shuttle van. This adaptation of an existing vehicle model for automated transit showcases a unique path in the realm of urban transportation, potentially simplifying the implementation process and offering a novel blueprint for future automated transit solutions.

 For more check out this video. 

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