Startup Halo. Car launches driverless car rental service in downtown Las Vegas

Las Vegas-based startup, Halo. Car launched a driverless car rental service transportation service this week that allows customers to rent cars piloted by a remote driver, operating the vehicle from Halo. Car’s office.

The service, which is temporarily free, is still in its testing phase and only available in the downtown Las Vegas area. The remotely driven cars will also have a safety driver inside, in case any problems arise.

The electric vehicles are controlled through six cameras that stream video directly to the remote pilots at Halo. The car’s office, and the pilots’ workspace, looks similar to an arcade game with a steering wheel, pedals and large computer screen.

Hello. Car founder and CEO Anand Nandakumar says the Halo. The car delivery service will only use EVs and hopes to make a positive impact on the climate while making EVs more accessible to the public.

“There’s a big problem with electric cars today, which is the only way consumers get access to electric cars (is) via private car ownership, which means oftentimes that you have to fork out $40,000,” said Nandakumar.

The price of electric vehicles is nearly 40 percent higher than gas powered vehicles, according to Kelly Blue Book. The average price for an electric car in May 2022 was more than $65,000 while the average price for a new car was about $46,500.

Nandakumar said Halo. Car was founded in part to get around this by making EVs more accessible, and it’s testing the idea with the launch of its new service, which is offered for free until the company receives its short term lessor license from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

But customers can expect to pay $120 per day or $15 per hour plus taxes and fees, according to Cas Mao, Halo. Car’s chief strategy officer.

People can book the service through Halo. Car’s website and the driverless car will arrive at their home or designated pick-up spot. Once the customer is inside the car, they can drive the vehicle themselves like a regular rental car. When their booking is over, the remote pilot will take over and drive the car to its next destination.

Beta launch

Hallo. Car chose to launch its operations in Las Vegas because of the welcoming regulatory nature the state has towards car technology, said Nandakumar. Nevada first authorized regulations for self-driving cars in 2011 and approved other autonomous vehicle projects like the driverless taxi service Motional.

Hello. Car said it’s starting with three cars operating within a 1.25-mile area in the Arts District, according to Nandakumar.

Remote car pilot Antonella Siracusa-Rosa said it’s easy for drivers to switch the controls from one car to another.

“Switching cars is like switching tabs on your computer,” said Siracusa-Rosa.

Siracusa-Rosa said she has been training to pilot the cars for the last four months and has been driving on city streets for the last month. She said the main challenge is navigating around unexpected events, like when pedestrians don’t use a crosswalk or cars pop out of driveways or side streets.

Shashi Nambisan, director of UNLV’s Transportation Research Center, said humans are still better at responding to road hazards than self-driving computer software.

“We are able to discern and make decisions in a matter of seconds, while we need to train the vehicle and the sensors on the vehicles to recognize millions of possible stimuli and then come up with a decision-making process,” said Nambisan, who also advised Halo. Car on technical issues.

He said companies using novel technologies like remotely-driven vehicles need to be patient in order to build trust and awareness among consumers. He also said Halo. Car needs to be cautious not to move too quickly on operations.

“All it takes is one mishap to mess up the credibility of the organization,” said Nambisan.

Nandakumar said the company is being cautious with an initial 1.25-mile operating zone with low speed limits. He said the company won’t move forward if too many problems appear during its beta test launch.

However, if the rollout goes smoothly this summer, Halo. Car will operate without safety drivers, expand its operations and add up to 50 cars to its fleet by the end of the year, according to Mao.

By next year, if things continue to improve for Halo. Car there could be hundreds of cars in its Las Vegas fleet. It will also look to expand to other cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami and New York.

“There needs to be a strong market from the perspective of customer interest and a strong market perspective of regulators’ support,” said Mao.

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