5G technology has generated a lot of hype because of its potential to power driverless cars with a remote drive, but in recent years that has been all – hype. Las Vegas-based startup Halo and telecommunications giant T-Mobile are teaming up to change that by launching a driverless electric car service in Las Vegas with 5G later this year.
The service, which starts with five vehicles, will work by connecting users to Halo’s pilot vehicle fleet through an app. After a user has ordered a vehicle, a remote operator drives it to the waiting customer. After delivery of the car, the user can sit behind the steering wheel and operate the vehicle as normal for the duration of the journey. When the journey is over, the truck driver takes over again and drives him to the next waiting customer.
Halo is very different from companies like Waymo or Cruise, which are developing a complete self-driving technology stack that aims to completely remove humans – remotely or in the car – from the equation. Instead, Halo vehicles will be equipped with 9 cameras, radar and ultrasound as backup (no lidar) and connected to remote operators via T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity Midband 5G network.
Halo CEO Anand Nandakumar told Biomedarticles that the service can also run on the extended range low-band 5G network and LTE if necessary.
Halo said in a press release that its cars will be equipped with an algorithm that “learns in the background as the human controls the vehicle and creates a unique feedback loop to achieve Level 3 capabilities over time,” said it suggests that the company is aiming at autonomy in the long run. (“Level 3” refers to the five levels of autonomous driving of the Society of Automotive Engineers. L3 denotes functions that enable the driver to stay out of the circle under very restricted conditions.)
“Full autonomy is an enormous challenge from both a technical and a social trust perspective that will not be resolved in the years to come,” said Nandakumar in the press release. “But Halo was designed to address these building automation challenges over time, starting with a solution that consumers are comfortable with today.”
The startup also said its vehicles will be equipped with an Advanced Safe Stop mechanism that will bring cars to an immediate stop if a potential safety hazard is detected.
Last year, Halo joined T-Mobile’s co-founded 5G Open Innovation Lab, giving the startup access to the telecommunications engineers and mid-spectrum network. Nandakumar did not want to indicate whether T-Mobile is one of the company’s investors.