CALSTART and Transit Partners Among Grant Recipients in $100 Million SMART Grants Program for SMART Rider Proposal

The funding will be used to retrofit transit buses in Ohio with anti-collision vehicle technology from
Perrone Robotics
to create a safer transit experience.

Pasadena, CA – CALSTART, a global clean transportation nonprofit, has been selected as one of the 34 grant awardees in the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program released by the U.S. Department of Transportation for its proposal SMART Rider: Advanced Safety Technologies for Transit. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law established the SMART program with $100 million appropriated annually for fiscal years 2022–2026. CALSTART and partners will receive $1.98 million in federal funds for the SMART Rider project. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 94 percent of serious crashes are due to human error, and an estimated 60 percent of crashes resulting in injury or death could have been avoided with the use of advanced vehicle safety technologies according to the National Safety Council. Today, the technologies are not yet available as standard features in transit vehicles, but if they were, more than 4,320 transit-related injuries could have been prevented across the United States (2022 Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database).  

SMART Rider will be a six-month pilot project (launch date: Q3 2024) that will focus on retrofitting buses with anti-collision technology to reduce the number of bus-related accidents. The primary goal of the demonstration project is to evaluate the effectiveness of transit-integrated safety technologies to prevent injuries and deaths in real-world applications and create a safer rider experience.  

The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), leading the project, states that funding will be used to install the TONY AV Kit from Perrone Robotics on three of its buses, using light detection and ranging (lidar), radar, cameras, and other sensors to detect risks and alert drivers in potentially dangerous driving conditions. The TONY AV Kit advanced vehicle safety system technology includes data logging and telematics features to address the need for collision avoidance on operating fleet vehicles. The system is expected to reduce at least 60 percent of annual transit incidents. 

 “We’re very excited about the project because if the data demonstrates that the technology works as expected, it could lead to its widespread and perhaps universal deployment in the United States,” said SARTA CEO Kirt Conrad. “That would bring us miles closer to achieving the goal of reducing the number of transit related injuries and deaths to zero.” 

“We’re thrilled to be part of this SMART Grant award with CALSTART and transit partners in Ohio, by equipping a fleet of transit vehicles and buses with our TONY AV Kit for smarter, safer transportation on public roads. This exciting initiative marks a significant step forward in enhancing the safety and efficiency of transit operations,” said Paul Perrone, Founder and CEO of Perrone Robotics, Inc. 

CALSTART is pleased to work in partnership alongside SARTA and the other partners that include Butler County Regional Transit Authority (BCRTA), Western Reserve Transit Authority (WRTA), NEORide, and the Ohio Transit Risk Pool (OTRP), along with industry partners Perrone Robotics and the International Transportation Learning Center (ITLC). All three transit agencies are partners of NEORide, a Council of Governments consisting of 25 transit agencies across five states. 

“We are pleased to be part of this innovative new project to increase the safety of public transit and reducing transit related injuries,” said Katherine Conrad, Executive Director of NEORide. “Our partnership with CALSTART, Ohio Transit Risk Pool and our transit members has brought forth a unique opportunity to explore this state-of-the-art new technology.” 

The project will be conducted as a regional partnership with the three NEORide transit agencies that are all operating in areas that contain partially disadvantaged communities across Ohio, spanning 92 disadvantaged census tracts (approximately 88 percent). The primary location for the project is at SARTA in Canton, Ohio; other locations include Butler County (BCRTA) and Mahoning County (WRTA).  

The deployment of advanced vehicle safety technologies will result in measurable improvements for transit safety and help to reduce accidents. The communities will benefit with safer modes of transportation, better air quality due to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from traditional buses and workforce development opportunities in transit-related jobs. 

“Safety is the No.1 priority for transits across the U.S. This regional partnership provides investments in commercially available technologies focused on increasing safety and the public’s trust in transit, which helps to further the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through increased ridership and reduction in single occupant vehicle us,” said Maureen Marshall, Senior Director, Midwest Region, CALSTART. “With the support of our project partners, CALSTART is changing the transportation narrative for commuters across Ohio.” 

For more information on CALSTART’s current and upcoming initiatives, visit the website today. 

A mission-driven, industry organization focused on transportation decarbonization and clean air for all, CALSTART has offices in California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, New York, and Europe. CALSTART is uniquely positioned to build the national clean transportation industry by working closely with its member companies and building on the lessons learned from the major programs it manages for the State of California. CALSTART has more than 280 member companies and manages more than $500 million in vehicle incentive and technical assistance programs in the United States.