London-based mobility startup Imperium Drive has begun trials of Fetch, an on-demand “driverless” car-hailing service, in Milton Keynes, England.
Passengers book a vehicle via the Fetch app, which is driven by a remote operator to their location. Passengers then unlock the car using the app and drive the car normally to their destination.
Upon trip completion, the remote vehicle operator will take over and navigate the car remotely to the next user or the base.
Fully autonomous vehicles remain some way from UK roads, but Imperium Drive said the trial is a step in that direction.
Currently, Fetch trials are tested in private routes under controlled conditions. It offers different cars, ranging from a standard saloon to electric microcars. The company plans to include public trails in the next 12 months.
Each vehicle is equipped with Imperium Drive’s proprietary remote driving software and uses 5G network as a primary source for connectivity and control.
The Fetch trial is backed by private investment and supported by Milton Keynes Council and the government’s ‘5G Create’ initiative. Startup accelerator funds Entrepreneur First and Techstars also contributed funds towards the trial.
The company aims to launch a fully operational remote-operated car-hailing service in the UK in the second half of 2022. It wants to move to fully autonomous vehicles within the next five years.
Besides Fetch, Imperium Drive is partnering with various car manufacturers to assess its use in a variety of vehicles. As its AI-software gains experience, the requirement for human intervention will diminish, the company said.
Koosha Kaveh, CEO of Imperium Drive, said: “For many people, public transport is cheap but inconvenient, while ride-hailing and taxis are convenient but also expensive. Our goal is to make on-demand door-to-door transport more cost-effective and convenient than every alternative, even privately owned cars.
“There are real environmental benefits too, with the potential to greatly reduce the number of private cars on the road. With Fetch, users hail a car to their doorstep and within minutes can be on their way, driving themselves to their destination in their own time and at their convenience. They don’t even have to worry about parking when they get there.”