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Five companies selected in Michigan mobility initiative to address Covid-19 challenges

A disinfecting robot, contactless autonomous delivery system and vehicle safety partitions are among the solutions to have received funding by PlanetM’s challenge.

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Pratt Miller's disinfecting robot, which will be deployed at Gerald R Ford airport
Pratt Miller's disinfecting robot, which will be deployed at Gerald R Ford airport

A disinfecting robotic vehicle, which will be used in Gerald R Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, and safety partitions for passenger vehicles in the City of Detroit, are among the projects to be awarded grant funding through PlanetM, the State of Michigan’s Covid-19 mobility initiative.

 

Five companies – GHSP, Gatik, Penske Vehicle Services, RCO Engineering and Pratt Miller – received more than $280,000 in funding to aid in the development and deployment of solutions that address the mobility challenges the coronavirus presents in Michigan.

 

Resilience and innovation

 

Other solutions include contactless automated delivery within the state-wide retail supply chain, disinfecting technologies in West Michigan and barriers to protect transit workers in Detroit. The funding will also enable companies to re-enact jobs impacted by the pandemic as well as create new jobs through production of these solutions and expansion into the state.

“We look forward to demonstrating the power of Michigan’s public private partnerships in supporting the state’s need for safe mobility solutions during this unprecedented public health crisis.”

“The resiliency and innovation that these companies are displaying in the face of this global pandemic will make a significant difference as our industry comes together to fight this virus,” said Charlie Tyson, technology activation manager at PlanetM. “We look forward to demonstrating the power of Michigan’s public private partnerships in supporting the state’s need for safe mobility solutions during this unprecedented public health crisis.”

 

Mobile UV-C treatment

 

GHSP, which received $80,000, has developed what claims to be a first-of-its-kind mobile ultraviolet-C (UV-C) treatment called grēnlite. Using high- and low-dose UV-C light, the system is able to sense when there are occupants in a shared vehicle space and will disinfect the air and high-touch surfaces following their exit, reducing Covid-19 and other disease-causing germs for those on the front lines.

 

As part of the pilot programme, the technology will first be integrated into May Mobility’s autonomous shuttle fleet as part of the Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative, made possible through a connection by start-up accelerator, Seamless. The pilot will serve as a launching pad for additional projects throughout the state and beyond.

 

The grēnlite UV-C treatment being demonstrated in an ambulance
The grēnlite UV-C treatment being demonstrated in an ambulance

Tom Rizzi, CEO of GHSP, said: “Helping improve the safety of the emergency service and public safety providers that expose themselves every day to help others was a big driver in getting this product developed and this technology will also create new engineering and manufacturing jobs in our Michigan economy.”

 

Autonomous delivery

 

Gatik, a Palo Alto-based autonomous delivery company, is working with one of the state’s largest retailers to automate their on-road transportation network. The pilot involves deploying autonomous delivery vehicles on predetermined, fixed routes throughout Grand Rapids and Rochester in Michigan.

 

The partnership is designed to help reduce human-to-human transmission channels of Covid-19 via contactless delivery, minimise personnel-based disruptions to the supply chain and transform the way groceries, health products and other everyday goods are sustainably delivered.

 

 

Gatik will deploy autonomous delivery vehicles on predetermined, fixed routes
Gatik will deploy autonomous delivery vehicles on predetermined, fixed routes

California-based Gatik, which was awarded $100,000, also plans to create new jobs for Michiganders as well as obtain a facility in the state through this pilot grant.

 

"We founded Gatik with one mission: to move goods safely and efficiently using autonomous vehicles,” added Gautam Narang, co-founder and CEO of Gatik. “With Covid-19, this mission has never been more important.”

 

Protecting workers

 

A current mobility challenge facing the city of Detroit is transporting passengers while protecting transit workers against Covid-19. Working with the city and its transportation vendor, Penske Vehicle Services (PVS) has started production on temporary vehicle occupant safety partitions, which are portable, clear vinyl barriers designed to increase physical separation between front seat drivers and back seat occupants of passenger vehicles.

 

With this grant, PVS, which received $28,000, is producing vehicle occupant safety partitions and has secured a small contract with a leading ride-sharing service. These barriers do not seal off the front and back seats entirely but are designed to provide an additional comfort buffer between drivers and passengers for increased safety precautions.

 

PVS' clear vinyl occupant safety partitions, designed to help protect vulnerable passengers
PVS' clear vinyl occupant safety partitions, designed to help protect vulnerable passengers

“This is a safe, efficient and scalable solution to further promote the health and safety of both the driver and passengers,” said Jill Lajdziak, president and CEO of Penske Vehicle Services. “It will help protect vulnerable members of the community, who rely on car transportation to shuttle back and forth between Covid-19 testing sites and for other related needs.”

 

Meanwhile, RCO Engineering, which awarded $28,000, will also develop and pilot partitions to help offer some additional level of comfort for the drivers tasked with transporting residents to and from their destinations.

 

The partition will not be designed to permanently alter the vehicles in any way. The city of Detroit will provide vehicles to be outfitted with RCO’s partition solution.

 

Disinfecting robot

 

Pratt Miller Mobility’s large-area-autonomous-disinfecting robotic vehicle (LaaD) will be roaming Gerald R Ford International Airport effort to help combat the Covid-19 virus.

 

LaaD is a connected, electric and autonomous disinfecting robot that will dispense FDA-approved disinfecting materials through a multi-head electrostatic sprayer array. The electrostatic technology sprays disinfectant into the air and adheres to surfaces for maximum virus protection, while the autonomous platform monitors and guarantees coverage through the use of sensors and data analysis.

 

“Being able to quickly integrate our flexible robotic platform (FRP) with state-of-the-art spraying equipment and 35 gallons of disinfecting solution, is exactly why our family of robotic platforms exist,” said Simon Dean, vice president of mobility and innovation at Pratt Miller, which was awarded $50,000.

 

He added: “Our ultimate goal is that our robot, LaaD, combined with the forward-thinking mindsets of the teams at PlanetM and the Gerald R Ford International Airport, will rebuild Michiganders’ confidence in the transportation and travel industries.”

 

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