Not only is everything bigger in Texas, but soon, things could be easier, too. At least, that seems to be the hope of California-based autonomous car company Drive.ai, which on May 8, announced the imminent launch of an on-demand self-driving service in Frisco, Texas. Now, that day has come. On Monday, July 30, Drive.ai launched its pilot in Frisco, with the goal of helping “people get where they need to go in a way that’s safe, efficient, and enjoyable to experience.”
Over the course of the last four months, the company has logged some pretty impressive mileage. Since April, the team has been driving within geo-fenced routes, and to date, has racked up more than 1 million simulated miles in Frisco. Of course, these aren’t the same as real-world miles, but Drive.ai notes that “running comprehensive simulations improves our vehicles’ ability to foresee and handle a wider variety of driving scenarios.” The team created simulations that both replicated situations they’d come across in the real world, as well as unique testing scenarios they developed on their own.
Now, 1 million miles later, Drive.ai feels confident launching its on-demand Frisco service. The company has teamed up with the Frisco Transportation Management Association (TMA) to offer rides to more than 10,000 people in self-driving vehicles. The best part? They’ll be free.
To ensure safety, these rides will take place only in a geofenced region that features retail, entertainment, and office space. This initial pilot will run with fixed pickup and drop-off locations, serving as a sort of self-driving shuttle service. This marks the first time that Texans will be able to access on-demand autonomous vehicles on public roadways.
While Waymo and Uber have claimed many early headlines around self-driving tests, Drive.ai has been hard at work on its own solutions for quite some time as well. With this new public-private partnership, the California startup could be one step closer to placing autonomous automobiles on roads across America. Eligible Frisco residents are now being on-boarded into the program and will be granted access to Drive.ai’s ride-hailing smartphone app. Now that the program is live, the app can be used to call complementary on-demand rides.
“Frisco is recognized as a leader in using ‘smart,’ innovative traffic technologies,” said Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney. “Drive.ai’s autonomous vehicles will help people get around one of our most vibrant, commercial areas along Frisco’s ‘North Platinum Corridor.’ We applaud the collaboration of the Denton County Transportation Authority, as well as our private partners at HALL Park, Frisco Station and The Star, which gave the green light, so to speak, to this pioneering pilot program. Today definitely marks a mobility milestone for our entire region. It also gets us closer to achieving one of our council’s ‘Top Ten’ goals, which is to improve traffic throughout Frisco, one of the fastest growing cities in the country.”
In an effort to make this pilot program as safe as possible, Drive.ai will also be working to educate members of the Frisco community about autonomous technology and will be placing informational signs throughout the proposed route. All vehicles will be painted a bright orange for maximum visibility and will have four external screens that are meant to display the vehicle’s next move to pedestrians, as well as other drivers.
“Self-driving cars are here, and can improve the way we live right now,” said Sameep Tandon, co-founder and CEO of Drive.ai. “Our technology is safe, smart, and adaptive, and we are ready to work with governments and businesses to solve their transportation needs. Working with the City of Frisco and Frisco TMA, this pilot program will take people to the places they want to go and transform the way they experience transportation.”
Updated on July 31: Drive.ai launched its on-demand self-driving car service in Frisco, Texas.