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Electric, horseless carriages take a test run in Philadelphia's Queen Village neighborhood

Animal advocates test horseless carriage rides in Philadelphia
Animal advocates test horseless carriage rides in Philadelphia 02:11

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A local startup is piloting a new kind of ride in Philadelphia, one that offers the charm of traditional horse-drawn carriages without any horses. Riders had the opportunity to try out the horseless carriages Sunday in a parking lot in Queen Village.

The e-carriages, pioneered by the startup FREe-Carriages, are what the company calls a "cruelty-free and environmentally friendly alternative" to traditional horse-drawn carriages.

Ron Edwards and Christine Kestner came from Virginia to take the carriage for a ride.

"We support this cause not only here but in other cities around the nation," Edwards said.

"It has all the elegance and the romance of a carriage ride without the negatives in terms of animal exploitation," Kestner said.

Powered by five lead-acid batteries, these carriages can reach speeds of up to 18 miles per hour. According to CEO Janet White, safety is a top priority. 

"We have most everything we need at the moment — side mirrors, rear lights, anything that just makes sense safety-wise," White said.

There are still a number of regulatory hurdles before these carriages can legally operate on the streets of Philadelphia. White is working with City Councilmember Mark Squilla and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to address these issues.

"There are some regulations in our PennDOT policies that are a little more difficult to overcome," Squilla said. "But I think the will is there."

Squilla views the collaboration between FREe-Carriages and city officials as a way to modernize tourism while preserving history.

"It's really important to keep the tourist industry alive," Squilla said. "What better way to visit the World Heritage City of Philadelphia than a horseless carriage?

While most riders who stopped by Sunday said they enjoyed that the experience and said it felt safe and humane, there was one minor thing missing, according to West Philadelphian Mike Stavola.

"The clop of the hooves," Stavola said. "So maybe if they can get some fake hooves hopping – you know, dub some sound in!" 

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