Andrew Ng, former chief scientist at Baidu and one of the founders of the Google Brain team, has announced that Drive.ai, an autonomous driving start-up on whose board he sits, will offer a self-driving car hailing services for public use in Frisco, Texas starting in July.
"Self-driving cars are no longer a futuristic AI technology. They’re here, and will soon make transportation cheaper and more convenient," he announced on a blog post.
Frisco residents will be able to use the firm’s app to call Drive.ai’s vehicles on-demand. The initial pilot will be a six month deployment on a designated driving route from Hall Park to The Star entertainment-retail area, with a planned expansion to Frisco Station, Ng wrote.
Drive.ai will deploy its vehicles in three phases. In the initial rides, passengers will be joined by a safety driver, closely monitoring the vehicles’ operation.
In the second phase, Drive.ai will operate with "chaperones” alongside the “tele-choice” remote operating assistance system. The chaperone will sit in a passenger seat and be available to assist passengers and monitor operations, but they will not be expected to take over in a split-second. In the final phase, the firm will operate with only passengers in the vehicle, assisted remotely by tele-choice operators.
Founded in 2015 by a group of deep-learning experts at Stanford University, Drive.ai uses artificial intelligence to achieve Level 4 self-driving solutions. The firm developed the full software stack being used including perception, motion planning, mapping, localization, fleet management software, mobile app, communications, and the tele-choice remote assistance system in-house.
Last June, the firm raised a US$50 million series B round led by NEA and with participation from GGV and Northern Light Venture Capital. In 2016, it raised a US$12 million series A round led by Northern Light Venture Capital.