Drive.ai Self-Driving Cars Launch in Texas – And They’re Different

Drive.ai self-driving cars are unique because of their (1) bright, colorful exterior, (2) commute info screens, (3) focus on micro-transit over long trips, and (4) backup human drivers. Drive.ai has launched its driverless shuttle program in Frisco, Texas. Before Drive.ai even launched vehicles, they analyzed traffic in that area for months.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Jul 27, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Drive.ai has launched their driverless shuttle program in Frisco, Texas
  • The company is striving to do things the way they think is best, even if it is different from other companies
  • Drive.ai is seeking to be a leader in the miro-transit field

Self-driving — or autonomous — vehicles are the hot subject of the automotive industry today.

Some car manufacturers have developed their own self-driving technology while others have partnered with companies that focus solely on making technological advancements in the industry.

Although many companies are working on self-driving technology independently of each other, when you picture an autonomous vehicle, typically what comes to mind is a white van with a sensor rising above the roof.

Drive.ai has attempted to break the status-quo in three major areas starting with appearance. They launched their program in Texas at the end of July.

Since autonomous vehicles aren’t available for service everywhere, chances are you are still driving your traditional vehicle and need insurance. Make sure you’re getting the most coverage for your money.

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#1 – Appearance

The Drive.ai vehicles are bright orange with a blue stripe highlighting the words “Self-Driving Vehicle.” Other drivers and pedestrians cannot help but notice these Nissan NV 200s.

Other prominent features are the screens on the sides and front of the vehicle. These screens display written messages designed to communicate with others on the road. Some of the messages, according to The Verge, include:

  • “Waiting” (shows on the front and side screens) and “Crossing” (shows on the rear with a moving graphic of a pedestrian walking) – When stopped for a pedestrian crossing
  • “Going” (displays on the front and side screens) – As the vehicle starts driving from a stationary position, with a moving graphic of the van driving;
  • “Entering/Exiting” (shows on all screens) – With moving graphic of a person entering and exiting the vehicle;
  • “Human Driver” (shows on all screens) – Whenever the vehicle is in manual mode.

Each of the seven Drive.ai vehicles is given human names.

These vehicles have been being tested in Frisco, Texas, north of Dallas, since the beginning of the year, and are now entering the next phase of their pilot program where they will offer rides within a geo-fenced two-mile area.

Texas, like Arizona, has friendly laws toward self-driving vehicles, and the lack of regulations has brought several different autonomous vehicle companies to test their products in the state.

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#2 – Driver Experience

Since Drive.ai isn’t trying to mimic a human chauffered ride, their driver experience is different than what you would experience in another autonomous vehicle.

Riders can follow their commutes on screens that use combined information from the following devices:

  • lidar
  • radar
  • GPS
  • RGB cameras
  • inertial measurement data

And while you may understand how some of those things work, others may sound like technological mumbo-jumbo.

Regardless of how each instrument works, what shows up on the screen is a real-time animation of the rider’s path of travel alongside the actual video feed from the onboard cameras.

Drive.ai’s goal for riders is comfort. Don Lepard, Drive.ai’s Frisco site lead, explained, “We’re really taking a methodical approach and being thoughtful about how we scale. We want to make advocates out of early adopters.”

Engineers for Drive.ai have even met with first responders to learn more about and develop responses for situations in which another driver is acting recklessly.

#3 – Technology

Various companies who focus on self-driving technology are striving to find their niche. Drive.ai wants to become the leader in micro transit. What their testing in Frisco is an example of this micro-transit idea.

The area offered for ride-service is about two miles square and aims to decrease congestion in that small area.

The first couple weeks, the program featured a human backup driver. That driver will transition to the passenger seat mainly to offer answers to questions, and eventually will transition out of the vehicle completely.

Drive.ai also uses remote drivers. These remote drivers do not have total control over the vehicle but can help it make a decision in an unusual situation and can operate the brakes.

The Drive.ai vehicle will pick up passengers from set locations when hailed through an app. The geo-fenced area includes three major complexes including the headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys.

Before Drive.ai even launched vehicles, they analyzed traffic in that area for months. The technology in the car was developed using information from the analysis and was created to gather information and make decisions as the car travels.

Initially, a human entered different visual features, but then the vehicle technology was employed. This technology is “self-learning” and has the capability to save hundreds of man hours annotating data.

One example of how this works is that instead of programming the vehicle to follow different sizes and colors of lights at an intersection, Drive.ai engineers exposed the program to thousands of intersections and allowed the computer to independently learn the signals.

The vehicles have driven over a million simulated miles, have been exposed to millions of situations, and have logged months of test runs on the streets of Frisco. The simulated miles have allowed the vehicles to collect valuable information for improved street performance.

The program will run as follows:

  • Six months
  • Rides free of charge
  • Operating from 10 am until seven pm daily
  • Vehicles park when not in service

Even though public excitement over autonomous vehicles dampened earlier this year after an Uber autonomous vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian, Drive.ai hopes their program with offer a service that will help public perception shift to a more positive view.

While waiting for automated driving technology to reach all parts of the United States, make sure your traditional car insurance is up-to-date and that you’re not overpaying for coverage.

Enter your zip code into our free quote tool below to compare several car insurance quotes at once.

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