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EV company partners with Perrone Robotics to equip commercial vehicles with Level 4 autonomy

Lightning eMotors, which electrifies commercial vehicle chassis, is teaming with Perrone Robotics to offer Level 4 autonomous vehicles for sale for commercial customers, including those operating cargo vans. (Photo: Lightning eMotors)

Lightning eMotors has partnered with Perrone Robotics to offer Level 4 fully autonomous commercial vehicles to customers.

The companies announced Monday that PIDC, a public-private economic development corporation in Philadelphia, is the first customer to deploy an all-electric autonomous shuttle using Perrone’s TONY AV platform. The vehicles, which are on sale now, are also available in cargo versions.

Level 4 vehicles are currently restricted to geofenced areas, so the companies are also offering Lightning customers Level 2 platforms for Class 3 through 7 commercial vehicles that include lane-keeping capability, adaptive cruise control and forward collision avoidance.

“We were looking for partners who could deliver autonomous capabilities to our customers today and in the future — and that’s what Perrone offers,” Lightning eMotors CEO Tim Reeser said. “We offer perhaps the widest range of electric commercial vehicles in North America, and now we have an autonomous vehicle solution for our products, ranging from ambulances to campus shuttles and other commercial applications.”

Perrone’s TONY AV platform is a vehicle retrofit kit designed to enable vehicles to operate autonomously to move people and goods within geofenced areas or along dedicated routes. PIDC will use its vehicle to transport passengers within the confines of the 1,200-acre Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Watch: Ride along Lightning eMotors autonomous vehicle

The companies said early deployments of the Level 4 technology will focus on dedicated routes such as those on college campuses. The Level 2 system is available for commercial vehicles regardless of application or location.

“A lot of electric vehicle manufacturers are focused on just one vehicle size, and in many cases it’s a bespoke custom platform,” Perrone Robotics Inc. founder and CEO Paul Perrone said. “But that’s not how we operate at Perrone — our partnership with Lightning is an example of how we want to make a bigger impact. Lightning’s wide range of vehicles is aligned perfectly with the way we want to help foster the widespread adoption of self-driving technology.”

The TONY system, based on Perrone’s patented MAX robotics system, can be installed in both new and existing vehicles.

Lightning eMotors builds electric vehicles on existing chassis. It covers a broad range of commercial vehicles and application types, from Class 3 passenger vans up through Ford F-550 shuttle buses, and from Transit cargo vans to step vans and even Class 6 cargo box trucks.

With the Level 4 electric vehicle or the option for Level 2 vehicles with advanced safety systems, Lightning is expanding its potential use cases.

“Our customers are telling us they want this technology and now we can deliver it. These vehicles are ideal for college campuses, downtown business districts, vacation resorts and for large logistics yards,” Reeser said. “And, thanks to our partnership with Perrone, we stand alone as the only all-electric commercial vehicle provider that can offer Class 3-7 medium-duty vehicles that are fully autonomous and are certified by the departments of transportation, local transit agencies and other commercial organizations.”

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]