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At CES, robotics company retrofits autonomous driving for transit solutions

As autonomous and electric vehicles dominate conversations about the future of transportation, Perrone Robotics believes autonomy doesn’t require its own special car.

Instead, they suggest retrofitting vehicles with a system for geo-fenced and localized operations.

The Virginia-based company showed off its retrofitted solutions at CES 2022, the three-day international consumer electronics show that opened Wednesday at various venues around Las Vegas.

The TONY kit, short for “TO Navigate You,” can be installed on small passenger trolleys, cargo shuttles, transit vans and even trucks. The autonomy kit is meant for fenced in areas such as a warehouse yard, or campuses with a pre-set route such as a university, large business complex or hotel.

The technology uses deterministic AI that starts by mapping out the preset area by manually driving the vehicle. The result is a kit that is less focused on machine learning than other autonomous vehicles in the industry, according to Colleen Hahn, vice president of marketing and communications.

“Our goal is to provide reliable, fully autonomous cargo transit and transportation solutions for the mobility of people and things,” Hahn said.

Unique to their system, Perrone officials say, is the addition of a “safety watchdog” installed and operated independently from TONY with the ability to act proactively to potential safety hazards.

CES attendees can take a test ride of the machine on a GreenPower Motor Company EV Star, at the Perrone Robotics 556×80 track, outside the Las Vegas Convention Center’s west hall.

The large transit van went up to 20 miles per hour, completed a tight U-turn and stopped at a stop sign. It also stopped when it sensed a pedestrian in the roadway and tracked him by following slowly until he left the path.

Perrone officials want their technology to seize the unique moment in autonomous mobility, said Joe Holmes, the organization’s vice president of global business development.

The COVID-19 pandemic took more people away from public transit and back to personal vehicles, highlighting problems with pollution and safety in cities, he said.

It’s those conditions that could allow the mobility sector to expand their innovations to the public.

“I don’t think in my career or our lifetime (that) we will ever get this opportunity to reset what transportation looks like and that’s a really exciting place for us to be in this industry,” Holmes said.

The international consumer electronics show — cut back from an initial four-day run — opened Wednesday at several convention venues across the city and is being offered virtually.

About 2,200 exhibitors are expected on the CES show floor in person, according to the Consumer Technology Association, which produces the trade show.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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