Now in its seventh year, the Innovative Solutions Awards honors bus operations and their supplier partners who have implemented initiatives that helped them save money, run more efficiently, streamline operations, increase safety, improve customer satisfaction, increase ridership, and more.
METRO’s staff would like to thank everyone who applied, and congratulations again goes to all our winners.
Zero-emissions electric vehicle supplier GreenPower Motor Company partnered with Perrone Robotics to create/develop the first fully autonomous electric passenger transportation vehicle, the AV Star, which was delivered to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) in December 2020.
The innovative implementation is considered the nation’s first zero-emissions, FMVSS-certified, ADA-compliant, vehicle of its kind to be fully autonomous, with the JTA deploying the vehicle as part of their more significant program to develop the nation’s first autonomous public transportation network called the Ultimate Urban Circulator or U2C. The U2C is a multi-phased program that will modernize and expand the existing Skyway APM system into a 10-mile network that connects Downtown Jacksonville to nearby urban core neighborhood using autonomous vehicles and related technology.
Perrone Robotics, noted for its TONY (To Navigate You) AV retrofit kit that embeds into any vehicle type of any job application, was the lead on JTA’s Request for Proposal (RFP), for the Test and Learn Program.
“Our TONY retrofit kit provides a reliable, safety certifiable option for AV programs,” explain Perone Robotics officials. “We immediately identified the GreenPower EV Star the only suitable vehicle platform at the time, that would align with the RFP requirements and easily integrate with our technology. Once JTA awarded us the contract, we procured the vehicle from a distributor and began integration, assurance, and testing the on-road process. From vehicle reception by PRI to vehicle delivery to JTA, the outfitting and certification process for the first build took approximately seven months of time, all during the 2020 pandemic. Today, that integration time takes four weeks.”
Currently, the AV Star is actively undergoing testing within the JTA Test and Learn Program. Specifically, obstacle detection and avoidance (ODOA), traffic intersection and traffic circle navigation, battery of tests to include exposure to various atmospheric conditions, V2X, and other tests specific to the operational design domain are underway, Bernard Schmidt, VP, automation & innovation, at JTA, explains. The next phase of testing will scale to operating within the public right of way, which is expected in the first quarter of 2022.
In just one example of how this and other autonomous vehicles are being used, the JTA, in conjunction with its partners Beep and NAVYA, deployed vehicles on the Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville campus during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Specifically, we commissioned four autonomous vehicles to transport COVID-19 specimens from a testing site to their laboratory on campus,” Schmidt says. “This was the first use-case in the U.S. and abroad where autonomous technology was leveraged for this particular use. Because of the success of the JTA and this particular use case, we continue to look at other deployments, what we refer to as ‘Agile Plans’ to stand up similar services while also solving complex transportation problems.”
“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in autonomous vehicle interest and the AV Star demonstrates the compelling marriage of advanced technologies with the customer’s own unique requirements,” say GreenPower officials. “GreenPower’s AV Star really opens the door for other automated applications, such as delivery services, passenger transportation, ride sharing, and we see tremendous opportunities across various markets.
Together, the partnership is “creating a more sustainable future and positive impact on our planet,” according to the team.