Trenton receives $5 million grant to make MOVES for residents

File photo: A Waymo minivan arrives to pick up passengers for an autonomous vehicle ride, in Mesa, Ariz. Waymo, the Google self-driving vehicle spinoff, is moving to expand its autonomous ride-hailing service to San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

File photo: A Waymo minivan arrives to pick up passengers for an autonomous vehicle ride, in Mesa, Ariz. Waymo, the Google self-driving vehicle spinoff, is moving to expand its autonomous ride-hailing service to San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Trenton has been awarded $5 million in a state grant to kick start planning a transportation project involving autonomous vehicles.

The grant comes from the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Local Transportation Project Fund. It will be used to plan the Trenton Mobility and Opportunity: Vehicles Equity System (MOVES) Project.

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora says 70% of households in his city have only one car or no car at all.

“We have many residents who live in the senior towers and the like that have no real transportation options,” he said.

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The goal of the project is to deploy 100 autonomous vehicles throughout the city to provide low cost, environmentally friendly transportation.

For example, a resident on West State Street needs to get to their doctor on South Clinton Avenue. The resident would request the vehicle through an app or at one of 60 kiosks closest to them. The vehicle will come pick them up and drop them off at either their doctor’s front door or at the closest kiosk.

“People won’t have to necessarily go on primary roads,” Gusciora said. “They can go to secondary roads and be dropped off at secondary places as well.”

A similar service is being operated in Phoenix where Alphabet-owned Waymo launched a taxi service with autonomous vehicles more than a year ago.

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The money will go towards the planning of the system. The state Transportation Department has put out a Request for Expressions of Interest in the project to get information about firms who design, build and operate the system.

Trenton is developing the project with help from the state and Princeton University. The mayor said the idea for the project began after one of his interns attended a Princeton University lecture on autonomous vehicles and then followed up with the professor, Alain Kornhauser. After that, the city started applying for grants.

Gusicora, who is thrilled about the grant, is equally excited to partner with the Ivy League institution and get students from Trenton High School’s STEM program involved as well.

“It’s a win for putting Trenton on the map, but also being able to partner with Princeton University, as well as the New Jersey Department of Transportation,” he added.

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