City partners with Bedrock, Michigan Central, and State Office of Future Mobility and Electrification to pilot the ‘Connect’, a two-way 10-mile autonomous vehicle shuttle route

  • Consortium led by the City of Detroit aims to deploy the Connect, an autonomous vehicle (AV) transit pilot designed to propel the City's commitment to achieving a zero-emission public transportation system. 
  • The Connect pilot will establish an autonomous vehicle shuttle service with a route between the Michigan Central and Detroit’s East Riverfront.  
  • The pilot has secured $1.5 million in funding for the first year from Michigan Central, Bedrock, and the State of Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME). 
  • The Connect pilot, featuring four all electric Ford E-Transit vehicles, targeted to deploy in summer of 2024, is equipped with wheelchair accessibility and is ADA compliant. 
  •  Perrone Robotics, Inc. selected as preferred partner for the project. 


The City of Detroit, in collaboration with Bedrock, Michigan Central and the State of Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME), announced today plans to pilot a two-way 10.8-mile autonomous vehicle (AV) shuttle route - the Connect - that will run between Michigan Central to Bedrock’s 200 Walker Street on the east riverfront.  The Bedrock property is home of the Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design and its newly opened Foot Locker Footwear Creation Stu/deo. 

The Connect pilot service will open to the public this summer and be provided at no cost to riders.  The joint project has received $1.5 million in funding for its first-year operations, with major contributions from key partners: $500,000 from Michigan Central, $500,000 from Bedrock, and $500,000 from the State of Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME).  

The Connect is geared toward learning and refining an autonomous vehicle (AV) transit service to meet the diverse needs of the surrounding community. This shuttle service pilot is an example of future transportation innovation taking place in Detroit and the Michigan Central development area, with the goal of setting a new standard for sustainable, efficient, and community-centric mobility.  

City partners with Bedrock, Michigan Central, and State Office of Future Mobility and Electrification map
City of Detroit, Bedrock, Michigan Central, and OFME collaborate on the 10.8 mile two-way 'Connect' AV shuttle route, linking Michigan Central to Bedrock's 200 Walker Street


Collaboration is the key to success in innovation  

Led by the City of Detroit, the Consortium comprises stakeholders dedicated to advancing the future of sustainable and innovative urban mobility. Members formalized their commitment through a Collaboration Agreement, building upon the foundation laid in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in February 2023. 

The Consortium aims to create a publicly accessible, financially sustainable service with a dedicated route for the AV transit pilot, focusing on equitable and sustainable transit within the city. 

 The project leaders are working to ensure the sustainable extension of the pilot shuttle service for years to come, complementing, not replacing, existing Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) services. This initiative aims to enhance the overall mobility network for the Detroit community by working alongside existing transportation options. 

"The Connect pilot signifies a bold leap toward sustainable and efficient mobility in our city. Through collaborative efforts, we not only aim to provide a reliable and efficient transportation experience connecting neighborhoods, transit routes and modes, and economic hubs but also position Detroit at the forefront of the autonomous vehicle race. This project is pivotal for maintaining our city's leadership in the industry, offering benefits such as job growth and skills training with new technology. Our overarching goal is to deploy the technology of tomorrow in a manner that ensures accessibility and invites feedback from all Detroiters, shaping a more connected and vibrant future for our community,” said Tim Slusser, chief of the City of Detroit’s Office of Mobility Innovation.  

Guided by the Office of Mobility Innovation, the City of Detroit will lead community outreach initiatives with residents before deployment, aiming to share finalized project details, including service operations and pick-up locations, and gather insights to enhance the service and ensure a high-quality rider experience. 

“We are proud to partner with the City of Detroit and Michigan Central to enhance accessibility and connectivity in Detroit," said Kofi Bonner, CEO at Bedrock. "Investing in reliable, sustainable last-mile transit options is crucial for creating a vibrant city core.  Implementing innovations like the Connect pilot further solidifies Detroit's leadership in sustainable mobility.” 

Bedrock, along with Michigan Central, will partner with the City on planning, designing, and implementing the infrastructure essential to facilitate and support the operations of the Connect pilot. 

“Michigan Central is focused on finding real solutions to the challenges society faces with the way we move people and goods. This pilot is an opportunity to explore a new way to think about public transportation that works in tandem with the city’s existing bus system while expanding access to more people and places,” said Carolina Pluszczynski, Michigan Central’s chief operating officer and head of Innovation Services. 

On behalf of the Consortium, NEXT Infrastructure is leading the project management and implementation of the pilot. Leveraging a proven track record navigating complex and innovative projects to successful completion, NEXT will manage the integration of all program components, facilitate collaboration between the partners, and execute on pilot objectives to improve Detroit’s urban mobility. 

“Detroit is stepping boldly into the future of urban transportation, and we're honored to play a pivotal role in managing the Connect pilot program,” said Daniel Hansen, Managing Partner at NEXT Infrastructure. “We are dedicated to ensuring this pilot program not only upholds Detroit’s legacy as a hub of automotive innovation, but also serves as a model for sustainable urban mobility nationwide.”  

Perrone Robotics, Inc. has been selected as the partner for the Connect pilot. The selection process considered technological expertise, reliability, and a shared vision for the future of urban mobility. 

"Perrone Robotics is thrilled to partner with the City of Detroit, Michigan Central, and Bedrock on this transformative project,” states Paul Perrone, CEO of Perrone Robotics. “As we bring our 20+ years AV expertise and AV technology to the storied streets of Detroit, we're not just deploying shuttles; we're weaving the fabric of the future into the rich tapestry of a city renowned for its automotive heritage. This pilot is a testament to Detroit's resilience and innovation, and together, we're driving towards a more sustainable, accessible, and connected urban experience." 

Upon initial deployment, the Connect pilot will feature four Ford E-Transit shuttles. The all-electric shuttles include a blend of passenger seats and wheelchair accessibility, with a safety operator always behind the wheel. Shuttles will utilize Perrone Robotics' TONY AV Kit for autonomous vehicle operations on the 10-mile route. Onboard sensors and AV software will help the shuttle navigate a pre-programmed route, avoid obstacles, and perform maneuvers. Riders will be able to download an app to access route and operational details. 

etransit vehicle pic
The Connect pilot will deploy four Ford E-Transit shuttles, featuring a mix of passenger seats and wheelchair accessibility, with a safety operator always present.


Environmental and Economic Benefits  

This fleet being all-electric supports the City's goal of a zero-emission public transportation system. Alongside environmental commitment, the Connect pilot creates job opportunities for Detroit residents and will provide training in advanced skills related to autonomous vehicle software and technology.  

This dual-purpose program not only promotes a cleaner transportation system but also stimulates economic growth, empowering locals with expertise in the evolving field of autonomous transportation. 

Next Steps 

The Connect shuttles will go through several months of testing, both off-road and on-road, before being introduced for public use. Testing will be integral to finalizing the route details and ensuring the efficiency and safety of the service for riders and other road users. The Connect pilot, set to commence operations in late summer 2024, marks a significant step forward in a connected, sustainable, and innovative future for Detroit's transportation. 



About the City of Detroit's Office of Mobility Innovation (OMI):  

The Office of Mobility Innovation (OMI) exists to help the City of Detroit navigate the rapidly changing transportation and mobility industries. Transportation and mobility are essential for both people and businesses and Detroit’s automotive heritage provides an unparalleled opportunity to work with industry to innovate and define their future. 

OMI will lead mobility advancement efforts on behalf of the City of Detroit and collaborate with industry, academia, philanthropy, and local, state and federal government. By centering residents in every step of the process, OMI is focused on leveraging mobility as a pathway to opportunity in Detroit. 

For additional information about OMI, please visit or follow us on LinkedInFacebookYoutube and Instagram 

About Michigan Central: 

Michigan Central is a center for advancing technologies and programs that address barriers to social, economic and physical mobility. It is both a convening place and a call-to-action to advance a more sustainable, equitable future through a community-based approach to mobility solutions. Building on Detroit’s rich history as an engine of change, the transformative Michigan Central project aims to strengthen the city’s existing fabric of community and accelerate its economy, while inspiring collective action on the most pressing challenges at the intersection of mobility and society worldwide. 

About Bedrock: 

Bedrock is a full-service real estate firm specializing in innovative city building strategies. Since its founding in 2011, Bedrock and its affiliates have invested and committed more than $7.5 billion to acquire, develop and operate more than 140 properties in Detroit and Cleveland with landmark developments at the Hudson’s Site, Book Tower, City Modern, Tower City Center and the May Company Building.  

Bedrock’s projects include new construction, adaptive reuse and a portfolio totaling more than 21 million square feet of office, retail, residential, industrial, hospitality and parking.  

For additional information about Bedrock, please visit or engage with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn

About State of Michigan's Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME): 

The office works across state government, academia and private industry to enhance Michigan’s mobility ecosystem, including developing dynamic mobility and electrification policies and supporting the startup and scale up of emerging technologies and businesses. Michigan's competitive advantages make the state a place where mobility solutions are born and where companies find long-term success and support. 

About Perrone Robotics: 

Perrone is a leading provider of autonomous vehicle systems. The company delivers mobility excellence via TONY® (short for "TO Navigate You"), a vehicle independent retrofit kit for use in the autonomous transit of people and goods in geo-fenced and localized operations. TONY embeds inside any vehicle type or model, for any job application to provide a complete "artificial driver" solution that brings full autonomy in a safety certifiable framework. Proven, piloted, and in commercial production, Perrone autonomous systems help commercial, municipal, and governmental customers increase transportation efficiencies, enhance safety, and accelerate zero-emission electric vehicle deployment. The company also offers a portfolio of existing turnkey autonomous shuttles and vehicles pre-integrated with the TONY AV-Retrofit kit.