Most of the news regarding self-driving cars comes from California or Arizona, where several suppliers and automakers have set up shop due to favorable regulations. But Drive.ai is ready to bring Texas into the fold.
Drive.ai announced today that it plans to launch an on-demand self-driving car service on public roads in Frisco, Texas. Launching in July, and established in coordination with the Frisco Transportation Management Association, the service will provide autonomous rides around Frisco's "North Platinum Corridor" commercial area.
The program will be open to "office employees, residents and patrons" of the Frisco area. Using Drive.ai's new app, riders will be able to hail a complimentary ride in one of Drive.ai's autonomous vehicles. The company envisions workers grabbing a quick ride to lunch and, with an eventual connection to Frisco Station, a last-mile transit solution that helps folks reach areas currently underserved by public transportation.
The vehicle shown in these pictures is a Nissan NV200 that's been outfitted with Drive.ai's autonomous hardware. The large boxes on the front fenders aren't for riders, but rather nearby pedestrians. When ceding the right of way to a passenger, the box lights up with a "waiting for you to cross" message that lets the pedestrian know they can safely cross the street.
As with other pilot programs, Drive.ai's Frisco experiment will include safety drivers up front, able to take control of the vehicle if it's necessary. Eventually, a remote operator will negate the need for a safety driver, replacing them with a "chaperone" that sits shotgun and oversees the operation without being expected to take charge. If the system determines it needs an operator's judgment, it will pull over and request assistance remotely. The end goal is to remove the in-car presence entirely and run with just the remote operator as a backup.
Drive.ai is one of only a few companies opening up its self-driving vehicles to the public. Waymo has a similar system in place in the Phoenix area, where folks can take rides around town inthat lack a safety driver entirely.