For the first time in Europe a car has driven on a public road without people.
The feat was accomplished by Vay, a German startup. The company uses an approach called “teledriving” to remotely control cars from locations miles away.
The operators control the vehicles with steering wheels, petals and monitors. They also receive traffic noise via microphones and headphones.
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The system is similar to racing simulators for video games – only the action on the screens is real.
Redundant mobile networks ensure data transmission. In the event of power failures or emergencies, the vehicle automatically comes to a safe stop.
Vay’s Teledrive stations display a field of view across monitors. Credit: Vay
Vay tested the technology without a safety driver after receiving an exemption from Harmburg. The company announced on Tuesday that it has now completed its first test drives on predefined routes in the city.
“As a leading teledriving company, we have been driving remote-controlled electric cars on public roads in Berlin and Hamburg for more than three years,” Vay CEO and co-founder Thomas von der Ohe said in a statement.
“With the special permit received in December 2022, we have now been able to successfully drive the first car on a public road without a safety driver.”
Vay was co-founded by (left to right) Fabrizio Scelsi, Thomas von der Ohe and Bogdan Djukic. Credit: Vay
Vay was founded in Berlin in 2018. The startup has now built a team of over 150 employees that combines software and product experience from Silicon Valley with automotive hardware and safety technology from Europe.
The company eventually plans to sell its technology in two ways. The first is a door-to-door mobility service. A car is remotely driven to a user’s location, where the customer takes the wheel and drives to their destination, at which point the remote operator takes over again. The second service is teledriving a car while the user sits in the back.
Vay’s technology has been installed in Kia electric vehicles. Credit: Vay
Vay argues that teledriving will be safer for passengers and more convenient for drivers, while reducing internal and private vehicle ownership. The services aim to compete with existing ones carpool and ride-hailing providers.
Anjes Tjarks, Hamburg’s Senator for Transport and Mobility, sees other advantages.
“Vay creates such added value with its Teledrive service: no need to search for a parking space, emission-free, can be booked digitally and as a convenient service, for example for the ‘last mile’ from the bus or train station to your own front door,” he says called.
Vay will also use its test data to develop self-driving functions. Perhaps teledriving can give the stalled autonomous vehicle sector a boost.