Having 100 autonomous vehicles carry passengers around Trenton? That’s the plan

Murphy, DOT announce Request for Expressions of Interest about Trenton MOVES project

In another example of life imitating “The Jetsons,” Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti announced Monday a Request for Expressions of Interest for the Trenton MOVES autonomous vehicles project.

To be clear, the Trenton MOVES project does not involve flying cars — but it will be the first large-scale urban transit system in the country to be based entirely on self-driving shuttles, as it will aim to deploy 100 autonomous vehicles throughout the state capital in a system state officials hope will provide safe, equitable, affordable and sustainable high-quality mobility.

The Trenton MOVES — Mobility & Opportunity: Vehicles Equity System — project is being developed by the Governor’s Office, NJDOT, the city of Trenton and Princeton University.

Here’s what we know:

  • Each vehicle will carry four to eight passengers at a time;
  • The AVs will be low cost to users in underserved neighborhoods;
  • During the initial launch, there will be in-vehicle attendants to demonstrate the safety and operational integrity of the service;
  • Full deployment will occur after a detailed planning and testing phase;
  • The system will allow Trenton’s households (70% of which have limited access to a single automobile or no access at all) as well as traditional road users to get acclimated to the presence of AVs on the streets of the state capital;
  • Officials hope to serve 90,000 residents of Trenton.

Murphy and Gutierrez-Scaccetti said the DOT is offering this Request for Expressions of Interest to help gather information from firms in the design, buildout and operation of a safe and equitable automated vehicle transportation system for Trenton.

Following the solicitation of the RFEI, the NJDOT may issue formal Requests for Qualifications or Proposals. However, responses to the RFEI will not necessarily impact or be connected to any call for proposals or qualifications.

The deadline for the RFEI response is Feb. 11.

For Murphy, it’s another potential example of the state leading the way on innovation — attracting entrepreneurs, companies and capital in the process.

“Since taking office, we have worked relentlessly towards making New Jersey the innovation center of America,” he said. “There is perhaps no initiative that embodies this goal more than the Trenton MOVES project, which will attract tech talent from around the country and the world with the mission of creating an autonomous vehicle-based transit system in our capitol that will provide a new, affordable transportation solution for underserved areas of Trenton.

“This is an exciting project with immense potential, and I look forward to the day that the first vehicle hits the road.”

Gutierrez-Scaccetti was equally enthused.

“Trenton MOVES represents an opportunity to utilize innovation to sustainably improve the quality of life of the mobility-constrained in many of our cities,” she said. “By starting in Trenton, we will have the opportunity to work with a close and effective partner; ultimately, our vision is that this effort will ideally scale throughout the state and the region.”

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora said Trenton MOVES has the potential to have enormous impact.

“Trenton MOVES means our residents can get to work on time without transfers or connections,” he said. “It means state workers can explore restaurants and businesses throughout the entire city. It means more safe and equitable transportation options for everyone, ranging from students involved in school activities to seniors going to their doctor appointments.

“We’re grateful to Gov. Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Transportation under Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti for investing in an innovative mobility solution that will considerably improve the lives of the average Trentonian.”