Drive.ai To Launch Self-Driving Car Service In Texas
Bay Area self-driving startup Drive.ai said on Monday it will launch a pilot program for an autonomous ride-hailing service in July in Frisco, Texas, with safety drivers present.
The initial pilot will run for six months and will be the first public deployments on Texas city streets, the company said.
The program’s vehicles, Nissan NV200 vans, are painted bright orange and have visible sensors as well as four screens that tell pedestrians what the car is thinking, such as “waiting for you to cross” and “passengers entering/exiting.”
“It’s intended to be visually distinct,” Drive.ai co-founder and CEO Sameep Tandon said. (Before Drive.ai settled on orange, highlighter yellow was also a top contender.) “If you think of a school bus, you know when you’re around a school bus, it’s a really bad idea to say, harass it, or to do aggressive maneuvers around it,” he said. “The first thing we want to do is make it very, very visibly distinct, so that your expectations around the vehicle also click.”
Drive.ai only operates on roads with speed limits of less than 45 mph, but says these can be some of the toughest conditions. The office complex where the pilot program will take place is a mix of parking lots, small roads, wide intersections and is a fun playground for those with robotics jobs.
Like Waymo, Drive.ai will offer rides free of charge. Drive.ai is starting small with just four vehicles that will operate during weekday daylight hours, serving an office park complex where about 10,000 people work. The service is limited to residents, employees and patrons of the buildings in the program.
Drive.ai was founded in 2015 by former graduate students working in Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab run by Andrew Ng, a renowned artificial intelligence expert who is the former chief scientist at Chinese tech giant Baidu, and he helped build the Google Brain project with Jeff Dean. Ng is chairman of Drive.ai’s board.