Self-driving shuttles? The future of transportation could be coming to Richmond

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The future of transportation could be coming to Richmond.

Perrone Robotics, a company based in Crozet, is testing their technology in autonomous shuttles.

“There’s a map of an area and then you tell it where you want to go and the vehicle figures out how to get there,” said Founder Paul Perrone.

The company is running a pilot program in Albemarle County and hopes to bring the shuttles to areas across the country.

Greater Richmond Age Wave is a local company interested in the shuttles and wants to bring the vehicles to Richmond. 

They are looking into locations, but said the shuttles would serve older adults and connect riders to GRTC bus lines.

“Today, older adults are the fastest growing population in greater Richmond,” said Catherine MacDonald, director of Greater Richmond Age Wave, “For individuals who want to or need to drive less, what resources are available?”

During the pilot program, Testing Engineer Ralph Groves acts as a Safety Driver in case anything goes wrong. However, when the shuttles officially launch, they will be completely self-driving. 

“If I see anything that’s dangerous, I take control of the vehicle,” said Groves.

Perrone said although some people might be hesitant to ride the shuttles, the technology has been tested for years and is safe.

“There are sensors all around the vehicle that can see obstacles like pedestrians and other vehicles,” said Perrone.

The shuttles can navigate intersections, traffic circles and stop signs.

Perrone said this is the future.

“The goal of autonomy is to make transit and travel safer, but it’s also to make it more convenient,” he said.

Perrone Robotics said their goal is to have at least 100 of these vehicles operating within the next year.

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