The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has held a demonstration of a driverless shuttle van in operation at Newark Liberty International Airport.
According to the organization, the pilot project marks the first time an autonomous vehicle has operated on public roads in the state of New Jersey. The month-long pilot project is being conducted in partnership with STV and Perrone Robotics. A 14-passenger Green Power AV-Star shuttle was retrofitted with autonomous driving technology from Perrone Robotics, including sensors, cameras and mapping functionalities. It was first tested on a safety course that included simulated car and pedestrian obstacles within a closed parking lot at the airport. It then moved to night-time testing on airport roads between the airport’s P2 Air Train/parking facility and the new Terminal A, where it navigated arrival roadways, complex merges and multiple traffic lights. The shuttle was also tested in mixed traffic during daytime hours.
Throughout the testing period, the shuttle did not pick up passengers and always traveled at a maximum speed of 56km/h with a safety driver on board. In preparation for the pilot, the Port Authority approved a mandated safety plan from all firms involved, which focused on safety features, the responsibility of the onboard safety driver and operational coordination among the pilot project team, the autonomous shuttle company and the airport.
The pilot program is being conducted through the port authority’s innovation hub, a new collaborative initiative for employees from across departments and disciplines to test cutting-edge products and technology. The Newark pilot is the latest iteration of other autonomous vehicle tests at the agency’s airports, two of which had focused on the safe use of autonomous platooned vehicles on closed roads at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in 2022 and earlier in 2023.
The pilot project was organized in conjunction with the New Jersey Governor’s Office, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, with additional involvement from NJ Transit, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and local municipalities including Newark and Jersey City.
“We are thrilled to mark this milestone for the state of New Jersey representing a historic moment as the first public road autonomous operation in the state,” said Paul Perrone, CEO of Perrone Robotics. “This FMVSS-compliant, zero-emissions all-electric mini-bus has been designed to operate autonomously at posted roadway speeds, offering a sustainable and efficient solution for the future of mobility. This is just the beginning, and we’re excited about the potential this holds for reshaping the transportation landscape.”
“Being the first to bring driverless vehicles to New Jersey roads is the latest example of the port authority pushing the envelope when it comes to keeping the region moving,” added Kevin O’Toole, chairman of the port authority. “The goal is always a streamlined, modern and more convenient journey. If new technology can help get us there, we’re willing to explore it.”
Rick Cotton, executive director of the port authority, commented, “For more than 100 years, the port authority has been defined by technological and engineering breakthroughs, and now we’re putting the computerized pedal to the metal. Innovation needs to be a major pillar in utilizing 21st-century technology to provide the quality of public services the region deserves.”
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