The New Driverless Car Service Powered by 5G – 5G and autonomous vehicles are two of the most important innovations on our technological horizon. Both have enormous potential to change the way we live and move, especially when they’re integrated into a more powerful whole. That’s exactly what a startup called Halo wants to do with a 5G-powered fleet of semi-autonomous electric vehicles.
How does Halo work, and what are its chances of success in the high-stakes world of autonomous vehicle technology? The company has some human-centric tricks up its sleeve that could make its cars smarter and more efficient than the typical self-driving car “brain” housed in an extruded aluminum enclosure can manage. Read on to find out what they are and how they could affect Halo’s upcoming big debut.
Halo is a Las Vegas startup that provides an on-demand ride hailing service, similar in purpose to established apps like Lyft and Uber. Currently, it’s collaborating with T-Mobile and the City of Las Vegas on a fleet of electric ride share cars that will serve the city’s massive demand for personal transportation. None of these cars will have a person sitting behind the wheel driving.
The twist is that these vehicles will (at first) technically be neither driverless nor autonomous. Instead, during the journey to the customer, a trained operator will control the vehicle remotely through the use of 5G-powered sensors and cameras. Halo says that these remote drivers will “teach” their Level 3 autonomous driving algorithm, and that they’ll eventually be phased out.
When the vehicle arrives at the customer’s pickup point, the customer then drives the vehicle to their destination themselves. After the customer arrives, the vehicle’s remote driver retakes control and drives the vehicle either to its next pickup or back to the garage, with minimal time spent idling. The end result, according to Halo’s pitch, is a more efficient and human-focused take on personal transportation.
Halo’s business model is an interesting new hybrid of car on demand, ride on demand, and 5G-equipped autonomous vehicles. The startup is well-funded by tech VC firms eager to capitalize on the intersection of ride-hailing and autonomous vehicles. Its pedigree includes backing from former Uber and Amazon execs, and it could provide a template for others to follow if it takes off.
Demand for on-demand transportation like rideshares has remained strong, and a rideshare that essentially delivers a vehicle for the customer to drive themselves is a potential game-changer. Halo is also operating in Las Vegas, a city whose large tourism and entertainment industries further increase demand for flexible transportation options at any hour of the day.
What about safety? Halo’s remote-driving system could allow it to bypass many of the safety and reliability concerns that have troubled other autonomous vehicle initiatives. An actual human will still have full control of the vehicle—just from a remote location instead of in the car. Time will tell whether the eventual phase-out of human control is realistic, but it’s at least an intriguing possibility.
One potential positive sign for Halo’s viability is that it’s not the only big deal to come from the intersection of tech, automobiles, and telecom lately. AT&T and General Motors, for example, recently launched a partnership that will outfit GM cars with AT&T 5G technology to aid their upcoming Super Cruise self-driving technology. Although this could mean more competition, it also means that the underlying 5G technology is reliable enough that many companies trust it.
Another advantage in Halo’s corner is its partnership with the city of Las Vegas itself. It’s the kind of public-private partnership experiment that we could likely see more of as cities search for effective ways to develop 5G tech infrastructure projects. With that, plus the T-Mobile partnership, Halo has a lot of skilled and well-resourced backers for its pilot project.
The Halo model for semi-autonomous vehicles has a lot of potential advantages, but its success is far from guaranteed. Halo will face challenges, both old and new, from several directions:
Other tech, vehicle, and telecom companies are sure to watch projects like Halo closely. Whether the current generation of autonomous vehicle projects succeeds or or fails, they’ll provide lessons for the next generation of businesses trying to navigate the landscape of autonomous technologies.
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