After driving 530 miles and carrying 750 passengers, the Perrone Robotics autonomous shuttle has finished the first open road autonomous shuttle trial in Virginia.
During the three month trial, held in collaboration with Albemarle County, the public had access to free demonstration rides on the AVNU (“Autonomous Vehicle, Neighborhood Use”) shuttle, according to a news release. The shuttle is classified as a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) and comes equipped with perception and guidance capabilities.
The shuttle drove fully autonomously on public roads in the town of Crozet, where it had to navigate vehicle, bike and pedestrian traffic. It is based on a Polaris GEM e6 vehicle retrofitted with the company’s TONY (TO Navigate You) autonomous transit kit.
“We’re thrilled to have fielded the first open road autonomous shuttle here in Virginia, giving members of the public safe and smooth rides with zero incidents and zero safety interventions through complex intersections and traffic,” CEO and Founder Paul Perrone said, according to the release. “Through our partnership with the County, we were able to demonstrate autonomous transport to enhance the mobility and utility of riders is viable now in a typical American community.”
Before driving on public roads, the AVNU was first tested by Perrone Robotics in simulation then on the company’s test track. To ensure safety, a monitor was on board during every trip.
The feedback from riders has been positive, with many of them liking the fact they could take the shuttle to restaurants and stores. Elderly riders also appreciated the service and the opportunity for increased mobility.
Both Perrone and the county plan to identify new trial areas and to evaluate retrofitting larger transit vehicles so more residents can have access to this mobility option.
“We were very pleased to observe this pilot of the next generation of transportation – autonomous neighborhood shuttles – right here in Albemarle County, Virginia” said Roger Johnson, Albemarle County’s Economic Development Director, according to the release. “The last-mile AVNU shuttle showed us how citizens that cannot drive, whether elderly or young, embraced the concept of an autonomous vehicle moving them safely to shops or restaurants. We can see how more of these shuttles would alleviate common parking issues and how using EVs is also great for reducing noise and pollution.”