Startup Drive.ai Brings Its Self-Driving Cars to Texas

The cars will be used in a public ride-hailing pilot.

Drive.ai

California-based startup Drive.ai is taking its autonomous cars to Texas. Starting in July, Drive.ai will offer rides to members of the public in Frisco, Texas. While other companies have tried ride-hailing pilots like this in other states, Drive.ai claims this program will be the first of its kind in the Lone Star State.

Riders will be able to hail an autonomous car on demand using an app, just like using Uber or Lyft. But Drive.ai's cars will operate within a specific area in Frisco's downtown business district. Drive.ai will use modified Nissan NV200 vans with exterior signage to help communicate with other vehicles, as well as pedestrians. The signs will be able to tell pedestrians, for example, that the self-driving car is waiting for them to cross at a crosswalk.

Human safety drivers will sit behind the wheel initially, but Drive.ai hopes to replace them with "chaperones," who will sit in the passenger seat and "educate riders about the self-driving experience," according to a Drive.ai blog post. Eventually, Drive.ai wants to remove the chaperones as well. The company said passengers riding alone in its vehicles will be able to call remote operators if they need assistance.

Drive.ai said Frisco is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and claimed residents have a significant need for so-called "last mile" transportation services that can fill in gaps left by public transportation. The startup believes its autonomous ride-hailing service can help fill those gaps without increasing traffic. However, data from other cities on Uber and Lyft usage indicates that ride hailing may not reduce traffic congestion.