The driverless race: Uber to compete with Imperium’s remote-controlled car-sharing service in the UK

Uber, a low-cost mobility provider, may soon be up against another competitor, except this cab doesn’t have a driver — or at least not one in one.

Imperium Drive leads its prototype driverless taxi that can be remotely controlled to meet its next passenger in Milton Keynes, England.

Through an app, users can request a vehicle that is then driven remotely to their location.

Unlike regular taxis, the passenger then drives the vehicle to its destination.

“This journey will be as easy as an Uber, except you will have to drive yourself,” said Koosha Kaveh, co-founder and CEO of Imperium Drive Ltd, the company that developed the technology.

“So in terms of the time it takes a car to arrive, the on-demandness of it, everything will be very convenient. But you become your own Uber driver and cut costs on your Uber journey. When you get to your destination arrive, you just stop, then ask in the app a remote driver to take control of that vehicle and there you go to your destination without worrying about parking.”

For now, the car is being trialled by the staff at MK Stadium, but it will soon be extended to football players from Milton Keynes Dons FC.

Imperium Drive plans to launch its ride-hailing service under the name Fetch later this year.

The project is part of a wider UK government national initiative called the “5G Testbeds and Trials Programme”.

5G applications

The aim is to invest in real-life 5G applications, such as in Milton Keynes.

“Well, this project is about exploring the new mobility solutions that are just around the corner, particularly interested in connected and autonomous vehicles. And essentially, the project is about testing 5G capabilities to improve and develop these services. to a situation where we can deploy them in the city,” said Brian Matthews, head of transport at Milton Keynes Municipality.

Imperium Drive received approximately £4.5 million (€5.3 million) to carry out the trials from local and national governments and private investors.

And thanks to 5G, the company could take a giant leap forward.

“5G has much greater bandwidth capabilities and much lower latency, allowing a remote driver to drive safely at higher speeds. Currently, with 4G, we want to go out to streets at 30 miles per hour, which is the normal urban speed limit,” Kaveh said.

So we can’t go to places like double carriages – and by that I mean remote driving on double carriages or highways. 5G will only allow us to increase our range and move to roads with higher speed limits.”

When will it be available?

From March, it hopes to launch the service in the city center along specific routes, with a 5-seat sedan – the next step towards a much bigger goal.

“Our goal as a company is to make remote driving safer than normal driving. And this is really important. And we believe that this is possible through technology, through computer vision and through software,” says Kaveh.

During the tests, a driver works remotely from a stand in the stadium.

Sitting next to wide windows, the driver can remotely monitor the vehicle when it is in sight of the stadium grounds, but once they reach the Milton Keynes roads, they are completely dependent on the on-board cameras.

The remote driver uses a steering wheel and pedals originally designed for video games.

It would take less than a day of training to remotely board drivers.

“The driver has a more detailed picture of what’s around. That’s because in normal driving situations you have blind spots. We don’t have that with remote driving either. And with the help of those live streams, the driver makes decisions and exerts himself.” in. control of the car back to the vehicle now all over the 4G and 5G wireless communication networks,” Kaveh said.

Is it safe?

But even if 5G is a big improvement over 4G, remote driving still raises safety questions.

What happens if the car is driven through an area not covered by 4G or 5G? What if the network speed is slower than usual, or worse, stops working at all?

“Our technology — monitoring technology — monitors the quality of the connection at all times, the network at all times and takes the necessary actions regarding the activation of safety functions: caps on the speeds and alerts the remote driver about what he or she does and can’t do it at different times,” Kaveh said.

“Our ultimate layer of safety is that if you have a network loss, meaning it is impossible for the driver to remotely control the vehicle, the vehicle will perform emergency braking maneuvers to bring the vehicle to a safe stop.”

Another safety feature is this emergency stop button, added to the console of this car.

A 5-seat Kia Niro sedan car will be used to launch the service in Milton Keynes – a normal hybrid car available directly on the market.

According to Imperium Drive, it will be ready for remote control by the end of the month.

In the meantime, the company will provide it with the computer, cameras and software needed to run the service.

“In the next 10, 15 years, we really expect autonomous vehicles to take over and there will be several companies,” said technology expert Jonathan Roubini.

“What they’re trying to do is get there one step at a time, so not all of a sudden automatically go to an autonomous vehicle, but like these guys do where they introduce a driver remotely and get the car where it needs to be, but you drive there.” still put themselves in. So it’s real — they’re not taking small steps, but they’re really taking a few steps toward that ultimate goal,” he added.

Imperium Drive already has a second development phase in mind, where passengers can refuse to take the wheel and ask to be driven remotely.

With this new business model, they hope to create a new gig economy for remote drivers.

For now, thanks to outside drivers and passengers driving to their locations themselves, Imperium Drive claims the Fetch service will cost up to 50 percent less than Uber rides.

The company has not disclosed the pricing of its upcoming service, nor the exact rollout of its service in the UK later this year.


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