Autonomous Vehicles, New Mobility & the Built Environment CES2023

The Puppy Dog Rental Car – A Bridge to Autonomy

Once upon a time, an enterprising car rental business shook up the car rental industry by delivering the vehicle to the customer. It was no longer necessary for the customer to find someone to give her a ride to an often inconveniently located car rental lot across town.

With this model, the car rental lot could be located virtually anywhere. This meant it would no longer have to be located on expensive an on-site car rental lot. Presumably, the cheaper land would make up for the added expense of sending two cars and two employees to each customer’s location.

A Case for a Remote Driver #

Seeing the opportunity to improve productivity by applying the latest technology to the car rental delivery model Anand Nandakumar founded Halo in 2020. His vision extends beyond car delivery, as he sees Halo as a way to accelerate the electrification of vehicles by making them more affordable and accessible.

Instead of spending billions to jump directly to an electrified, autonomous, and rideshare future, Halo is taking a phased approach to improve mobility. This means revenue generation with each phase. As importantly, each phase informs future development.

In the above interview, Nandakumar, Halo’s CEO/Founder, provides an overview of their current service, which delivers electric Kia Niros to a customer anywhere in Las Vegas for prices starting at $40 for four hours. What makes this unique is that in certain areas, the car is delivered without a human driver in the seat.

As seen in the above video and explained by Nandakumar, for safety, a chase car with a human driver follows the remotely piloted vehicle to the customer’s location. To enhance safety, the cars are routed on streets with 25 MPH speed limits.

The remote driver is located at the teleoperations center at Halo’s headquarters. The connection between the remote driver and the Kia Nuro is via a triple redundancy cellular connection. There are multiple levels of redundancy, including the ability of the chase driver to stop the car in the event of a safety incident.

Building the Bridge to Autonomy #

Unlike a vehicle designed for autonomy, the modifications to the Nuros are minimal. Halo adds cameras to provide 360-degree vision. Additionally, the cars are equipped with Halo-designed radios that connect to the T-Mobile (also an investor in Halo), AT&T, and Verizon networks. Nandakumar stresses that this approach meets the reliability and latency requirements for remote piloting of a vehicle on public streets.

Nandakumar’s vision is to incrementally build the service to leverage its remote drivers. Some of these phases include:

  • removal of the chase driver
  • expansion of the geographic areas where a safety driver is not required
  • management of multiple vehicles by a single remote driver

Eventually, the remote driver could transition to that of a remote monitor, ensuring the safety and delivery of vehicles from Halo’s teleoperations center. In the meantime, Halo’s plan is to continue to generate revenue and incrementally build that bridge to a driverless future.

Interview Highlights #

  • 00:00 – Halo’s service is likened to Dr. Alain Kornhauser’s saying about how a car in the driveway is like a puppy dog waiting to serve its owner.
  • 00:23 – Anand Nandakumar provides an overview of Halo’s offering
  • 01:05 – Princeton Professor Kornhauser reinforces Nandakumar’s comment about the opportunity to create mobility that is affordable and accessible.
  • 03:01 – Nandakumar explains why Halo’s approach could accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.
  • 04:32 – Halo is predicting 40 to 60 rides will be provided per vehicle per day at scale.
  • 05:29 – This could lead to better cities with parks taking the place of parking. Halo’s solution is a “bridge to autonomy.”
  • 07:06 – “Autonomy is an exoskeleton for industrial workers.”
  • 08:40 – Nandakumar believes Halo’s approach is much more enticing to investors as its capital and risk are much less than a fully autonomous approach from day one.
  • 09:02 – Nandakumar indicates that regulators can grasp what Halo is doing much easier than they can a driverless vehicle.
  • 10:09 – Kornhauser asks when will Halo be ready to remove the safety driver.
  • 12:23 – How does Halo ensure network connectivity?
  • 14:45 – Today, the maximum speed they drive is 25 MPH.
  • 16:15 – The onboarding process does not require an app.
  • 16:54 – Today’s focus is Las Vegas, but regulators from other jurisdictions are showing interest in Halo’s solution.

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is Marketing Director for the Broadband Forum. The mission of this 25+-year-old non-profit “is to unlock the potential for new markets and profitable revenue growth by leveraging new technologies and standards in the home, intelligent small business, and multi-user infrastructure of the broadband network.”

He is also co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on the rural broadband ecosystem, autonomous vehicles, and electric aviation. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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