Hot on the heels of deployment in Frisco, Texas, Drive.ai today announced that it’ll begin piloting a fleet of self-driving cars in Arlington, Texas, later this year. On Tuesday evening, the City of Arlington signed a one-year contract with the autonomous tech startup.
“Drive.ai looks forward to the opportunity to bring our innovative self-driving technology to the City of Arlington. This forward-thinking, bustling city has unique transportation needs, and we plan to provide a last-mile transit solution within a vibrant entertainment district,” Conway Chen, vice president of business strategy at Drive.ai, said in a statement. “Together with the city, we aim to reshape the way people experience transportation in Arlington, Texas.”
Service will kick off on October 19. As in Frisco, passengers will hail Drive.ai’s self-driving cars — which will travel at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour on public roads with a safety operator — with a smartphone app. And they’ll be picked up and dropped off within predefined, geofenced locations — in this case, Arlington’s entertainment district, which includes the Cowboys stadium, Texas Rangers park, and “other venues and locations.”
The initial pilot will include three of Drive.ai’s self-driving vans initially, with the potential to expand to five vehicles at a later date. Drive.ai said it will be funded in part by the city and a $343,000 federal grant.
“This program marks our first revenue,” Drive.ai wrote in a Medium post. “We’re officially ‘open for business’ — now with two publicly-available self-driving services in U.S. cities — and we will continue to look for ways to solve the real-world transportation challenges facing communities today.”
In March, President Donald Trump signed into law a $1.3 trillion spending bill that earmarks $100 million for projects that “test the feasibility and safety” of autonomous cars, but that explicitly precluded funding of private companies.
Drive.ai’s autonomous vans employ a cadre of lidar, radar, GPS, cameras, and inertial measurement sensors to collect data about the outside world, which an onboard computer synthesizes in real time. Uniquely, they’re outfitted with screens that display symbols, emoji, and cues to communicate their next course of action — like a lane change or right turn on red — to drivers and pedestrians around them.
Drive.ai hopes to transport more than 10,000 people in its self-driving cars over the next six months at its Frisco, Texas site.
Drive.ai has raised more than $77 million from venture capital firms including New Enterprise Associates. Andrew Ng, a renowned Stanford computer science professor and former chief scientist at Baidu and Google Brain, Google’s AI research division, sits on its board.