Deploying vast fleets of robocars has been much tougher than Tesla Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo and others thought. One European startup is now pitching an intermediate step to full autonomy: teledriving.
Germany's Vay, which has been quietly testing a fleet of remote-controlled electric vehicles all over Berlin, plans to roll out a mobility service in Europe and potentially the U.S. next year.
For a fraction of the price of an Uber, customers will be able to order a remote-controlled car, drive themselves to their desired destination and then get out, leaving it to a human teledriver miles away to either park the vehicle or steer it to a next client. Vay eventually plans to introduce a ride-hailing service that's entirely remote-controlled.
"We're launching next year — not in five years — with services that have huge benefits over what is out there," CEO Thomas von der Ohe, who previously worked on Amazon.com Inc.'s Alexa and at self-driving startup Zoox, said in an interview.
The concept may be novel, though it isn't new. Former Nissan Motor Co. boss Carlos Ghosn touted the approach at CES in 2017, showcasing a platform for managing fleets of autonomous vehicles developed from NASA technology.