And it seems to work just fine.
German automotive startup Vay has launched the first vehicles on public European roads without a driver present inside the vehicle, instead relying on "teledriving" or remote control. The driver is located in a so-called steering station several miles away. After being given an exemption permit in December 2022, Vay could forego the previous requirement to have a safety driver behind the wheel as a failsafe in case the remote driving system failed.
After testing teledriving on the streets of Hamburg and Berlin for the last three years, Vay received an endorsement from German safety agency TUV SUD, which evaluated Vay's teledrive system and its compliance with ISO 26262 and ISO/SAE 21434 standards.
This technology paves the way not only for autonomous vehicles of the future but driverless ride-sharing services, too.
We've previously discussed why Americans are not ready for autonomous driving and the various pitfalls that come with the technology, so maybe this could be a viable short-term solution while the computer nerds get their ducks in a row.
"This is a huge success for the entire team, but also for Hamburg and Europe," states CEO and co-founder Thomas von der Ohe. "In the context of legally enabling new technologies, this is a significant step and Germany is making leaps in taking the global lead in teledriving technology."
Vay users can order door-to-door transport via a mobile app, with an electric car like the Kia Niro EV showing up at your doorstep. The customer then climbs into the driver's seat and drives where they need to go, without needing to worry about finding parking at their destination. Instead, they simply complete their journey, and a driver at Vay's teledrive station in Hamburg takes over control of the vehicle.
At the teledrive station, the remote pilot sits behind a steering wheel and a pedal rig manufacturers to automotive industry standards, relying on cameras and microphones in and around the car to provide the necessary audiovisual information to pilot the car. Added information like traffic information is also available to them.
This is a unique take on the principle of ride-sharing, with the added benefit of not having to find the nearest parked car available to you, as the car comes to you instead. Vay says that fewer vehicles can transport more people, reducing the cost of mobility and increasing road safety.
Company executives even claim the technology will be ready for mass roll-out within months rather than years.
It'll likely be a while before such technology arrives in the US, not least of all because of the legislative hoops companies would have to jump through. In 2021, Ford partnered with Lyft through the Argo AI development for autonomous ride-sharing vehicles (with a safety driver). However, the plug has now been pulled on Argo AI.
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