While shared mobility is certainly no new concept, I’d argue that 80 to 90 percent of you have partaken in the service at least once. And if I had to guess your mode of transportation was probably that of a bicycle or scooter. For the more adventurous, you might be quick riding a moped or a car.
The trouble, that’s to say, if there even is one, is that the majority of these services require you to find and travel to a designated dropoff/parking zone for said vehicle, which, isn’t really a deal breaker, but if does somewhat nullify the door-to-door mobility service concept.
Well, the days of trekking to the car-sharing carpark depot are on the verge of coming to an end, as Hamburg-based startup Vay has successfully demonstrated its teledriving solution, and in so much, putting the very first car on European public roads sans any human being inside the vehicle.
Needless to say, a feat like this doesn’t go without some extensive research and testing, as company CEO and co-founder Thomas von der Ohe explained, “We have been driving remotely-controlled electric cars on public roads in Berlin and Hamburg for more than three years.”
Where the differentiator comes into play is that while Vay has been driving cars that employ a range of sensors and eyes and ears remotely, they’ve been doing so with a real-live human being safety driver aboard.
After receiving the thumbs-up endorsement from TÜV SÜD, a branch of Germany’s stringent technical inspection association, the Germany Authority for Traffic and Mobility (BVM) issued Vay an exemption permit, thereby paving the way for Vay to go sans human in its cars.
“This is a huge success for the entire team, but also for Hamburg and Europe. In the context of legally enabling new technologies, this is a significant step and Germany is making leaps in taking the global lead in teledriving technology," said von der Ohe.
So what does this all mean and who is Vay, you might be asking? As a reminder, taken from my coverage of the company’s $95 million Series B round raise that was announced in mid-December of 2021:
Starting in 2022 (I guess we’ll make that 2023 now), Hamburgers will have the ability to order a ride, with a teledriver delivering the car to the customer within a few minutes. From there, it’s up to the customer to drive themselves to their chosen destination, but upon arrival, forget about finding a place to park, as a Vay teledriver will then resume control of the car and either parks it or carries on to the next customer.
While a valuable offer in itself, what’s more interesting is how Vay is simultaneously providing a consumer service, but also feeding the machine. In so much, the holy grail of fully self-driving cars, and the associated algorithms powering them, require tonnes and tonnes of data input. Data that Vay is gathering.
The company makes no bones about its aspirations to eventually move beyond the tele approach and champion “autonomous driving functions in the system as it is safe and permitted to do so.”
And from the curb, it looks like Vay is well on its way.