Germany’s Vay has become the first company to deploy a vehicle without a human being inside on a European public road, a milestone the startup says paves the way for a remote-controlled mobility service within months.
Vay is pitching “teledriving,” which involving humans remote-controlling autos from physical steering stations miles away, as an intermediate step to full autonomy.
Expectations of an imminent rollout of a large number of robocars have deflated even after investors have bet some $100 billion on the technology.
The company said Tuesday it has started to teledrive on predefined routes in Hamburg after the port city granted a permit. While Vay had been testing the technology for more than three years, it was required to have a safety driver inside its modified Kia electric vehicles.
“We will now be working with authorities on the next steps to offering this service to externals,” CEO Thomas von der Ohe, who previously worked at self-driving startup Zoox, told Bloomberg News.
“So we should be talking months and not years.”
Vay’s service is based on teledrivers delivering EVs to customers who would hop in and drive themselves to their desired destination.
Teledrivers would then steer the vehicles to the next client. The startup has collected around $100 million from investors including former Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette, Kinnevik and venture capital firm Atomico.