If your ever in the Frisco, Texas area and just happen to see an orange and blue van driving around without a driver, don’t be alarmed. Might seem like an unusual place to catch a self-driving car but Drive.ai has 7 in operation here.
And just this past Monday, they’re officially available for the public to use within a specific area of Frisco that is packed with retail, consumer venues and office space. This California–based start-up with its fleet of autonomous vans has been running tests to perfect their computer algorithms in a pilot program that runs from now till January 2019. This is the first time Drive.ai invites to public to hop in.
“We want to make sure people feel safe seeing a self-driving car with no human behind the wheel, and become comfortable with it, so it becomes routine,” Sameep Tandon, Drive.ai’s co-founder and CEO, told The Verge.
Drive.ai’s autonomous vehicles will cover a two-mile route starting with a driver, then moving to a hands-off driver who will occupy the passenger seat acting as a chaperone. The representative will be responsible for providing a peace of mind to the riders by showing that the vehicle has full control, movement, speed, and most important safety. The service will be a collaborative effort with Frisco TMA, a public-private partnership focused on “last-mile” transportation options.
Even though there are only a few vehicles in Frisco, these modified Nissan NV200s are not hard to miss. Painted in a bright orange color with two blue lines and the words “self-driving vehicle” and “Drive.ai” complimented in white.
This pilot project, is free and will be operational for six months, and hopes to scale up to enterprise level just like Uber. The service is scheduled to operate weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m with the pickup and dropoffs located at Hall Park, The Star and Frisco Station. You can catch a ride with Drive.ai through its app available on the app store and google play.
To give a little extra personality the vehicles have nicknames such as Emma, Carl, Anna, Bob, and Fred and come with LED screens on the hood and rear, and above the front tires, displaying messages and the vehicle’s name to customers.
Drive.ai’s vice president of business strategy, Conway Chen explains to TechCrunch that this is designed as an on-demand service, not a shuttle, and when the vehicles are not being used they won’t just keep circling the route. Instead, they will be able to park along the route which helps with the lessening of traffic congestion.
Drive.ai has been perfecting it’s service as well as racking up miles on the road and in simulations, logging 1 million simulated miles on its Frisco route. In simulations, Drive.ai reacts to scenarios from its driving logs also creating its own scenarios of its encounters while driving the route.
Drive.ai explains in a post on Medium:
“It’s like a high tech version of SimCity, where we design the world, and can then replay events and modify their components to explore how our technology responds in unique scenarios. This is a good place to start for the more common things that people do on the roads: navigating tricky intersections, right-of-way decisions, and observing the behaviors of cyclists and pedestrians.”
Drive.ai also has a remote monitoring feature, called “Telechoice,” allowing human operators to visually see everything in real-time that the self-driving vehicle can see using its HD cameras. Telechoice can also control basic functions like braking, but it can’t accelerate or take control of the vehicle. For example, if “Fred” the self-driving vehicle struggles with a scenario on the road, the Telechoice operator can help it Fred make the right decision.
source: The Verge, Drive.ai