UK Start-Up Claims First Driverless Car-Hire Service

A British start-up is offering a fully unmanned driverless delivered on demand car-hiring service, albeit using remote control technology.

The company, Imperium Drive, has launched the Fetch service first launching to paying customers in Milton Keynes, north of London, before being rolled out across the country. It hopes to connect with other urban areas and key transport interchanges, such as airports. The service launches after a successful 18-month trial backed by government and industry funding.

Customers can hire a car through the Fetch app, stating when they need it and for how long. A BEV, which is delivered to them controlled by an operator from a remote location. The customer then drives the car themselves to their destination and when the rental period is over, the remote vehicle operator takes over and pilots the car back to base or to the next user.

There are currently four cars in the Imperium Drive fleet, operating within a four-mile radius of the Milton Keynes city center hub. Further regional hubs are planned to enable intercity travel and airport transfers. To ensure the safety of occupants and other road users, the cars have multiple cameras attached to them, giving the operator a 360-degree view and the operating system uses computer image algorithms to detect anything near the car.

Koosha Kaveh, chief executive of Imperium Drive, said: “It’s driverless but not autonomous – yet. There’s still a human involved but they’re sitting in a control center piloting the vehicle in the same way you would a drone. When fully autonomous, we think this system has the potential to replace private car ownership in the UK. Why pay all the costs of having a car on your drive when you can just pay for one to arrive when you need it? For short trips, the service offers the same convenience as a ride-hailing or taxi service but with the ability to cover greater distances at less than half the cost of services like Uber or Bolt.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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