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Pratt Miller, Penske and a Clever Robot Help to Fight COVID-19

The state of Michigan has challenged its companies to develop creative technologies to fight COVID-19, and IMSA stakeholders Pratt & Miller and Penske are right in the mix.

New Hudson-based Pratt & Miller and Troy-based Penske Vehicle Services were two of five Michigan companies selected late last month to receive funds from the PlanetM Mobility Grants.

Using funds to encourage Michigan’s mobility businesses to develop, test and implement new technologies in the state, PlanetM has gifted more than $2 million in funds since opening its doors two years ago. This time around, they will be handing out more than $280,000. PlanetM has two categories of funds, testing and pilot, and the funds for this project were rerouted from the latter.

Pratt & Miller was awarded $50,000 to kickstart its mission: Deploy the first Large area autonomous Disinfecting robotic vehicle (LaaD) in the United States. The LaaD is intended to spray disinfecting material that has an electrostatic component, allowing the material to cling to surfaces more powerfully. Using sensors and data, the autonomous robot is able to monitor coverage of the spray.

The goal is to roll out the first LaaD at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids later this month.

“It is an absolute honor to join forces with the State of Michigan in the battle against COVID-19,” said Simon Dean, vice president of mobility and innovation at Pratt & Miller. “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. 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.”

Meanwhile, Penske Vehicle Services will focus its project on more day-to-day travel in Detroit. With a grant of $28,000, the company is currently working on producing clear vinyl partitions to place between drivers and back-seat drivers in passenger vehicles.

These partitions will be tested out with a leading rideshare company and while they won’t completely block off interactions between the two sections, it does add another layer of protection for all passengers.

“We are very pleased to receive the support of PlanetM and MEDC,” said Jill Lajdziak, president and CEO of Penske Vehicle Services. “This grant represents a win-win for the community and for our company. This is a safe, efficient and scalable solution to further promote the health and safety of both the driver and passengers. 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.”

To read more about these initiatives and others, please click here.