Drive.ai began in 2015 to transform the relationship between people and transportation. Since then, we’ve built a full stack self-driving system from the ground up, with cutting-edge deep learning technology at its core. Now, it’s time to put our technology on the road and add real value to peoples’ lives with self-driving vehicles.
Starting in July 2018, we’re launching an on-demand self-driving car service in Frisco, Texas. This on-demand self-driving program is the first of its kind in Texas and solves the ‘last mile’ transit problem: moving between areas that are too far to walk but too close to drive (and often too crowded to find parking).
Using our app, members of the Frisco community will be able to call Drive.ai’s self-driving vehicles on-demand. When the pilot launches, our vehicles will drive on public roads between HALL Park offices and The Star, connecting busy offices with popular retail, dining, and entertainment options. At launch, the service will be administered by the Denton County Transportation Authority and operated in conjunction with The Hall Group, Frisco Station Partners, and The Star.
In our initial rides, passengers will be joined by a safety driver, closely monitoring the vehicles’ operation. We plan to soon remove the safety driver in favor of a chaperone in the passenger seat, who will educating riders about the self-driving experience and attend to the vehicle. And eventually, we will offer passenger-only rides. Throughout every phase of the program, our self-driving vehicles will be connected to our tele-choice technology, providing the ability to call to a remote operator should extra assistance be needed.
Three Key Elements for the Public Deployment of Self-driving Cars
Frisco, Texas is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Self-driving can benefit this city today by connecting residents and local businesses without increasing traffic. But it’s essential that public self-driving programs are deployed in a safe and thoughtful way.
Together with our partners, we’ve focused on three key elements to bring a positive self-driving experience to the City of Frisco:
1. Technology: industry-leading AI and deep learning
Drive.ai was founded by a group of AI engineers, many coming directly out of Andrew Ng’s research group Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab. From day one, we recognized that getting self-driving vehicles on public roads would require deep learning being built into a full stack system.
That’s why we built our entire self-driving system from the ground up: the mapping, perception, motion planning, localization, fleet management, tele-choice, communications, and mobile app. Deep learning is built into every aspect of Drive.ai.
Our deep learning-first approach enables us to push self-driving forward across a range of geographies and vehicles, solving the biggest mobility issues that cities and their residents face today.
2. Partnerships: deploying with public and private partners
As our team — and the self-driving industry — has grown in the past couple of years, we’ve thought carefully about where Drive.ai might expand. Since day one, we have been committed to working with businesses and policymakers to make self-driving vehicles a reality, safely and quickly. The ability to collaborate with local stakeholders is a huge consideration.
That’s why we’re excited about partnering with the Frisco Transportation Management Association for this deployment. Local partners best understand the transportation challenges within their community, and where self-driving programs can add the most value. By working with public and private partners, we can get residents to the places they want to go while being respectful of local roadwork, special events, and emergency response protocol.
3. Safety: people-centric safety
Self-driving vehicles are a new technology with unique strengths and limitations. We’ve thought carefully about how to introduce a safe, smooth experience for riders, pedestrians, and other drivers.
The bright orange Drive.ai vehicles are clearly labeled “Self-Driving Vehicle” for easy recognition. We developed distinctive color schemes, unique signage, and exterior communication panels that effectively communicate and convey our vehicles’ intended actions with pedestrians and other drivers on the roads.
We’ve also limited our driving service to a geo-fenced area so that all vehicle routes can be carefully mapped and predictably managed by our locally-based expert team. As we work towards launching the service in Frisco, we are excited to engage with and educate the public about our service and self-driving vehicles, through programs we craft with our partners.
This Is Big
Today’s announcement is bigger than just Frisco. It’s about moving the transportation industry forward, and deploying a Level 4 self-driving system to improve the state of mobility today.