Building robotaxis is hard. Ask Elon Musk, who promised them years ago, or General Motors' Cruise division, which just had to lay off a quarter of its personnel following a choppy rollout. Getting this tech right takes a lot of time, and a lot of money. German startup Vay is shortcutting all of that, with empty cars driving to pick up passengers in Las Vegas despite no level four autonomous system in place.

Instead of using AI to control the cars, Vay uses old-fashioned humans. They just aren’t in the car. Instead, a trained operator—a Vay driver, stationed at some central location—remotely pilots your car to the pick-up location.

Vay Teledriving Vegas 1

Then, it hands control to the customer, who can use it like a rental car. Once they arrive where they’re going, they request a pick-up from Vay, which can then send the car to another passenger in need.

It sounds ambitious, but CNBC reports that the service went live in Vegas on Wednesday. “With teledriving, a human is in charge,” Vay CEO and Co-founder Thomas von der Ohe told CNBC. “This allows us to handle complex maneuvres such as unprotected left turns, emergency situations and road works based on human perception and decision-making ability.”

It’s an interesting approach, as it minimizes how many human drivers the mobility service has to employ while not necessitating the costly development of a high-powered, bespoke autonomous driving solution. Another startup, Halo, began offering a similar service in Vegas last summer.

Von der Ohe notes to CNBC that the high price of sensors and software development for autonomous cars will make it hard to compete with Uber on price. By making you do some of the hard work, Vay hopes to offer a cheaper solution that isn’t tightly geofenced.

But since you’ll be doing the driving, I don’t recommend calling Vay after a wild night at Caesars. 

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