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Connect Pilot

Detroit, renowned for its automotive innovation, is once again at the forefront of transportation evolution with the upcoming launch of the Connect pilot—a groundbreaking autonomous vehicle (AV) transit initiative. In collaboration with Bedrock, Michigan Central, and the State Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME), the City of Detroit is poised to revolutionize public transportation, setting a new standard for sustainability, accessibility, and community engagement.

Scheduled for deployment in the summer of 2024, the Connect pilot will introduce a shuttle service spanning a 10.8-mile route, connecting Michigan Central with Detroit’s East Riverfront. With funding secured from Michigan Central, Bedrock, and the State OFME, totaling $1.5 million for the first year, this initiative underscores a shared commitment to zero-emission transportation and urban mobility innovation.

At the heart of the Connect pilot are four all-electric Ford E-Transit vehicles, equipped with wheelchair accessibility and ADA compliance, ensuring inclusivity for all members of the community. Perrone Robotics, Inc. has been selected as the project partner, bringing expertise in autonomous vehicle technology to the forefront.

The collaboration aims not only to provide a reliable and efficient transit experience but also to refine AV services to meet the diverse needs of Detroit’s residents. By integrating seamlessly with existing transportation options, the Connect pilot enhances the city’s overall mobility network, promoting sustainability and accessibility.

Led by the City of Detroit, the consortium behind the project is dedicated to creating a publicly accessible and financially sustainable service that prioritizes equitable transit solutions. Next Infrastructure will oversee project management and implementation, ensuring rigorous testing to guarantee efficiency and safety before public use.

Daniel Hansen, managing partner at Next Infrastructure, expressed dedication to upholding Detroit’s legacy as an automotive innovation hub while serving as a model for sustainable urban mobility nationwide. This sentiment is echoed by Kofi Bonner, CEO at Bedrock, who emphasizes the importance of investing in reliable and sustainable last-mile transit options for a vibrant city core.

Carolina Pluszczynski, Michigan Central’s chief operating officer, sees the Connect pilot as an opportunity to reimagine public transportation, complementing existing bus systems and expanding access to more people and places within the city.

Tim Slusser, chief of the City of Detroit’s Office of Mobility Innovation, articulates the overarching goal of deploying tomorrow’s technology in a manner that ensures accessibility and invites feedback from all Detroiters. This commitment to community engagement underscores the city’s dedication to shaping a more connected and vibrant future for all residents.

As Detroit prepares to embark on this transformative journey, the Connect pilot stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity in redefining urban mobility. By pioneering sustainable and equitable transit solutions, Detroit reaffirms its position as a global leader in transportation innovation, setting the stage for a brighter, more accessible future for cities around the world.

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