After-work happy hour will never be the same in Frisco, Texas. That's because the nation's first on-demand self-driving car service said Wednesday that it will begin testing vans that can be summoned on-demand via a smartphone app for rides between an office park and an entertainment district built around the Dallas Cowboys' training center.
Califorina's Drive.ai plans to launch its service in July within a geo-fenced area in the Dallas suburb. The timing, in the heat of the summer, could be perfect, since Drive.ai envisions its service as a solution to "last-mile" situations that are out of reasonable walking distance range.
Initially, the vans will have human backup drivers behind the wheel of its Nissan NV200 self-driving passenger vans. Eventually, Drive.ai says it plans to phase out the drivers in favor of full Level 5 autonomy.
More than 10,000 people will have access to the service via the app. For the first six months as it seeks to gather information, Drive.ai plans to make rides free—and it's also likely to beat Google's Waymo to the punch.
Drive.ai plans to place informational signage in the area that the service will operate in and Its vans will all be painted a bright orange to maximize visibility. Each vehicle will be outfitted with four external screens to communicate with pedestrians and other cars on the road. Drive.ai hopes to calm some of the fears associated with self-driving cars brought on by Uber’s fatal crash in Arizona in March.