German startup Vay has officially launched its teledriving service in the United States, specifically in Las Vegas, Nevada. The company has already secured $110 million in funding from investors like Swedish giant Kinnevik, U.S. fund Coatue, and French private equity fund Eurazeo.
Vay’s approach to driverless mobility starts from the autonomous vehicle model, offering a solution that combines the convenience of ride-hailing with the assurance of human-operated vehicles.
Vay’s teledriving service introduces a concept to the world of driverless cars. Unlike traditional autonomous vehicles relying on complex AI algorithms, Vay’s cars are operated remotely by human drivers stationed miles away.
This is a challenge faced by many players in the robotaxi industry, such as Tesla, Google’s Waymo, and General Motors’ Cruise.
Thomas von der Ohe, Vay’s Co-founder and CEO, addresses that their teledriving system is designed with safety at its core.
Drivers undergo tests and evaluations before being suitable to become teledrivers on the Vay network. Von der Ohe asserts that having a human in charge allows Vay to handle complex maneuvers, emergency situations, and road works based on human perception and decision-making ability.
The teledriving service operates as a car rental platform with a twist. Users can order a car through the Vay app, and the vehicle is driven to them by one of Vay’s qualified teledrivers stationed remotely.
Once the user is done with their journey, they have the option to let a teledriver take over, who then parks the car back at its original location.
This approach eliminates the need for users to navigate parking challenges and provides a end-to-end mobility experience.
Vay has conducted tests on public roads in both Europe and the U.S., making sure that its teledriving technology complies with safety requirements and regulatory standards on both sides of the Atlantic.
The company addresses that its system adheres to local laws and has obtained approval from authorities in Nevada before rolling out its service in Las Vegas.
Vay positions itself as a cost-effective alternative to traditional ride-hailing and robotaxis. Von der Ohe notes that the operational and capital costs associated with robotaxis are inefficient and that their pricing needs to align with established ride-hailing benchmarks.
Vay aims to address these challenges by adopting a contrarian approach, offering a service that is not just different but, according to von der Ohe, more efficient and economical.
The pricing model for Vay’s service is based on a per-minute rental strategy. Users pay $0.30 per minute while driving and $0.03 per minute during stopovers, making it an attractive option for those seeking flexibility and affordability in their mobility choices.
Vay’s launch in Las Vegas comes at a time when the demand for alternative mobility solutions is on the rise.
The company envisions a future where its teledriving technology becomes ubiquitous, providing an on-demand tele-valet service that parks users’ cars and even teledrives them home after a night out.
The startup sees a massive use case for remote driving functions, envisioning a decade or two of human-machine interaction where autonomous driving is alongside teledrivers.
As Vay introduces autonomous features, it plans to leverage the cost-effectiveness of its camera-based technology, which is more affordable than the lidar and radar systems used by many autonomous vehicle developers.
While Tesla has been pursuing a fully driverless ride-hailing platform, Vay’s approach, using remote drivers for vehicle delivery and pickup, offers an advantage. Users can enjoy the freedom of driving themselves without the hassle of parking.