5G technology has generated a lot of hype for its potential to power driverless cars using a remote operator, but in recent years that’s all it has been – hype. Las Vegas-based startup Halo and telecommunications giant T-Mobile are teaming up to change that, with a 5G-powered driverless electric car service in Las Vegas launching later this year.
The service, which will start with five vehicles, will work by connecting users to Halo’s pilot fleet of vehicles through an app. After a user orders a vehicle, a remote operator will drive it to the waiting customer. Once the car is delivered, the user can get behind the wheel and drive the vehicle normally for the duration of their trip. When the trip is over, the remote operator takes over and drives it to the next waiting customer.
Halo is a big departure from companies like Waymo or Cruise, which are developing a complete self-driving tech stack that aims to completely eliminate the human – remotely or in-car – from the equation. Instead, Halo vehicles will be equipped with nine backup cameras, radar and ultrasound (no lidar), and they’ll connect to remote carriers through T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity midband 5G network.
Halo CEO Anand Nandakumar told TechCrunch that the service can also run on an extended low-band 5G network and LTE as needed.
Halo said in a press release that its cars will be equipped with an algorithm that “learns in the background as humans control the vehicle, creating a unique feedback loop to achieve Tier 3 capabilities over time.” , suggesting that society aims for long-term self-sufficiency. (“Level 3” refers to the Society of Automotive Engineers’ five levels of autonomous driving. L3 indicates features that allow the driver to be out of the loop under very limited conditions.)
“Full autonomy is a huge challenge from both a technical and social trust perspective that will not be resolved for years,” Nandakumar said in the statement. “But Halo was designed to address these challenges by building automation over time, starting with a solution that consumers will feel comfortable using today.”
The startup also said its vehicles will be equipped with an advanced safety stop mechanism, which will immediately stop cars if a potential safety hazard is detected.
Last year, Halo joined the 5G Open Innovation Lab co-founded by T-Mobile, giving the startup access to telecommunications engineers and the mid-spectrum network. Nandakumar declined to say whether T-Mobile is one of the company’s investors.