Beginning on October 26, anyone in Arlington, Texas wishing to take a ride in a self-driving car will be able to do so.
Drive.ai is making three self-driving cars available to ride in for anyone who desires, not only for a select group of city officials, office workers, or “early riders.” The company will also be seeking to expand to five self-driving cars available to the public in the near future.
In July 2018, Drive.ai piloted the autonomous Nissan NV200 vans in Frisco, TX, planning to deploy the vans in Arlington some time next year.
Interested parties can download on the Drive.ai app or request rides at five kiosks at different pickup points in the city. At the moment, cars are limited to three different routes that take passengers to the Dallas Cowboys stadium, the Texas Rangers ballpark, the Arlington Convention Center, restaurant districts, and other high-profile locations.
However, the cars are not completely autonomous. There is a safety driver in the driver’s seat as a back-up as well as a “chaperone” in the passenger seat. Yet, the cars are still classified as “self-driving.” CEO Bijit Halder notes the cars’ distinctness, with bright orange and blue paint complemented by the special city emblem on the sides of the cars. “Self-driving cars should stand out and proclaim itself as a self-driving car,” Halder said.
Human-robot interaction is the key to Drive.ai’s autonomous driving system. The cars have digital panels that inform pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers on the road of what the car is going to do, such as letting pedestrians know that the car is stopping for them to cross. The panels also notify others whether the car is in self-driving or manual mode.
Halder relishes the opportunity to provide plentiful feedback on the future of self-driving cars.
One of the most interesting tidbits Halder had to share about feedback in Frisco had to do with questions passengers asked during their rides. Drive.ai expected most questions to be about safety, but Halder said the bulk of the questions had to do with being able to control the music during the ride. “If you’re bored, I’m happy,” he said.