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


Las Vegas-based startup Halo.Car launched a ride-hailing service this week that allows customers to rent cars driven by a remote driver, operating the vehicle from Halo.Car’s office.

The service, which is temporarily free, is still in the testing phase and only available in downtown Las Vegas. RC cars will also have a safety driver inside, in case something goes wrong.

The EVs are controlled by six cameras that stream video directly to remote drivers at Halo.Car’s office, and the drivers’ workspace resembles an arcade game with a steering wheel, pedals and large display screen. ‘computer.

Halo.Car founder and CEO Anand Nandakumar said the Halo.Car delivery service will only use electric vehicles and hopes to have a positive impact on the climate while making electric vehicles more accessible to the public.

“There is a big problem with electric cars today, which is the only way for consumers to access electric cars (is) through private car ownership, which often means you have to pay 40 $000,” Nandakumar said.

The price of electric vehicles is almost 40% higher than gasoline-powered vehicles, according to Kelly Blue Book. The average price of an electric car in May 2022 was over $65,000 while the average price of a new car was around $46,500.

Nandakumar said Halo.Car was founded in part to circumvent this problem by making electric vehicles more accessible and is 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 Department of Nevada. Motor vehicles.

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

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

Beta launch

Halo.Car chose to launch its operations in Las Vegas because of the state’s welcoming regulatory nature toward automotive technology, Nandakumar said. Nevada first allowed regulation of self-driving cars in 2011 and has approved other self-driving vehicle projects like the driverless taxi service Motional.

Halo.Car said it started with three cars operating within a 1.25-mile area in the Arts District, according to Nandakumar.

Remote car driver Antonella Siracusa-Rosa said it was easy for drivers to switch controls from car to car.

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

Siracusa-Rosa said she had been training to drive the cars for four months and had been driving on city streets for one month. She said the main challenge is navigating around unexpected events, such as when pedestrians don’t use a crosswalk or cars pull out of driveways or side streets.

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

“We are able to discern and make decisions in seconds, whereas we have 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,” Nambisan said, who also advised Halo.Car on technical issues.

He said companies using new technologies such as remote-controlled vehicles need to be patient in order to build consumer confidence and awareness. He also said that Halo.Car had to be careful not to go too fast in operations.

“All it takes is one accident to undermine the credibility of the organization,” Nambisan said.

Nandakumar said the company was being cautious with an initial operating area of ​​1.25 miles with low speed limits. He said the company won’t move forward if too many issues surface when it launches its beta test.

However, if the rollout goes smoothly this summer, Halo.Car will operate without security drivers, expand 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 must be a strong market from the perspective of customer interest and a strong market perspective from the support of regulators,” Mao said.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at Follow @seanhemmers34 on Twitter.

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