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This article was published on January 17, 2024

German roads in sight for teledriving startup Vay after US launch

The Berlin-based company is now open for business in Las Vegas — and Europe could be next

German roads in sight for teledriving startup Vay after US launch

German startup Vay has launched a remote-driving service in Las Vegas — and Europe could be next.

The rollout brings to market a concept known as “teledriving.” When users open the Vay app and request a ride, an electric vehicle comes to collect them. So far, so Uber — with one big exception: there’s nobody inside the car. Instead, it’s piloted to the pick-up spot by a remote driver.

The customer then takes the wheel for the journey to their destination. Once they depart, a teledriver takes control again.

It’s a model that Vay has pioneered. Last year, one of the startup’s vehicles became the first car to drive on a European public road without a person inside. With the Vegas service, Vay is now the only company to achieve the feat in both Europe and the US.

To turn the milestones into a successful business, Vay has combined two mobility models: ride-hailing for the pick-up and car rental for the journey. The tech, meanwhile, is billed as a midway point between conventional cars and autonomous vehicles.

“Given recent challenges in the autonomy industry, automotive-grade teledriving can offer an alternative path to safe ‘driverless’ transportation, as a human driver is always in control,” Vay CEO Thomas von de Ohe told TNW.

Map showing the route that Vay's remotely-driven cars will take in Las Vegas
The new service is centred around the University of Las Vegas, Nevada and the city’s Arts District.  It’s available from Monday to Friday between 7:00 and 15:00. Credit: Vay

Because there’s no driver on board, Vay is also cheaper than traditional ride-hailing. Initially, customers in Vegas will pay $0.30 per minute when driving and $0.03 per minute for stopovers. There’s no minimum length or distance and rentals are available for up to 12 hours.

Investors have made big bets that the savings lead to profits. In December, Vay raised $95mn (€87mn) in a Series B round.

To maximise their returns, Vay plans to use Vegas as a springboard to scale across the US —a huge market that lacks good public transport.

Vay also has big plans for Europe — starting with its home country. The company is currently in discussions with German authorities about a domestic rollout.

“There are many interesting developments underway — in Europe as well as in Germany in particular,” von de Ohe said. “We hope for a regulatory framework in order to launch our service in Germany as well.”

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