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Startup Spotlight: Ensuring Safety in Teledriving Ride Shares

The ride share market has boomed in the past decade. With rides available at the touch of a phone app, this convenience has conversely impacted metropolitan areas. These vehicles exacerbate overcrowded conditions and add to the existing issue of unoccupied cars. What if there was a way to maintain the convenience of a ride share, while taking idle cars off the road?

Startup Vay has launched a new type of ride share technology that addresses just that in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their mission is to be a door-to-door mobility service that is safe, affordable, and sustainable. How they’re implementing this service is where they stand apart from traditional ride shares. Not only is their fleet of cars fully electric, but they employ teledriving technology. This allows the fleet to be highly utilized. For example, there is no need to wait for the passenger to do their shopping as the teledriver can switch to the next user.

A teledriver operates a fully driverless passenger car. (Image courtesy of Vay Technology)

An interview with Karsten Gordon

Deploying a new technology is exciting but is not without challenges. Karsten Gordon, senior engineering manager at Vay who leads the embedded software and controls engineering team, sat down to discuss one of the biggest obstacles they face: navigating the technology safety.

Q: What makes your technology different compared to traditional options?
A: What makes our technology unique is the teledriving component, we still have a human in charge as the decision maker. The benefit is that for very complex maneuvers in road traffic, for example, unprotected left turns or emergency situations, the human can navigate through these situations. With that we can create trust in regulators and users of the service because there’s no abstract decision making by a machine in place.

Q:How do you ensure safety compliance and regulations are met in your vehicles?
A: Respective to local market regulations, United Nations Regulations or Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, we ensure our fleets are compliant with these operations. We take vehicles that are already market compliant and put our Vay system on top without altering or changing the existing system. We are also actively engaged with local law enforcement to provide insight on how teledriving can be safely implemented into existing traffic.

Q: What safety standards do you incorporate into your development?
A: Safety is paramount in all our development activities. We develop automotive grade technology based on the latest safety standards and in line with existing regulatory level requirements. This includes standards for functional safety like ISO 26262, but also cyber security standards like ISO 21434.

Q: Does teledriving have any other safety impacts?
A: Our platform makes it safer not only for passengers, but for drivers themselves. Safety doesn’t come from just safe technology, but also well-trained drivers. All drivers go through a rigorous training academy with guidance on the latest learning and collaboration with law enforcement. Additionally, we’re taking out external factors by putting drivers in a safe, controlled environment, with set shifts and without the possibility of unruly passengers.

Balancing safety and speed in development

Introducing a novel approach to an existing market is difficult, but when safety is of the utmost importance, teams need to be sure their development is built upon trusted and proven technology. The Vay team uses MathWorks tools to make sure critical safety goals are met on their platform. “We are using model-based design and with that we follow the latest standards for functional safety,” explains Karsten, “starting from requirements engineering, model implementation in Simulink, to validation and simulation, but also post processing of the test data we collect with our vehicles on the test track. MathWorks compliance with ISO 26262 standards ensures safety throughout our development process.”

As a startup, not only is safety paramount, but moving quickly to market is essential. Karsten shares how using MathWorks tools allows them to have a very fast turnaround for new iterations. By using a model-based approach they can conduct virtual validation of all the components, which allows them to find any defects early in the process before testing on hardware.

In the end, it’s the combination that we have from using simulations and real-world tests which allows us to have a very good balance and deliver a safe product in faster iterations.” – Karsten Gordon

Through MathWorks Startup Program, Vay has support to make sure their development team is most efficient with their resources. Karsten illustrates that having the large variety of toolboxes provides them with the right tools for the right steps in the development process, “leveraging the different toolboxes as a startup is only possible if you actually have the Startup Suite.” Additionally, the benefit of discounted training credits allows them to enhance and expand the knowledge of their domain experts using MATLAB and Simulink.

Vay car in Las Vegas. (Image courtesy of Vay Technology)

The road ahead

In 2023, the startup was the first company in Europe to drive a car without a person inside on a public road and further, the first company to remotely drive a driverless car in both Europe and North America. They’re building upon that success in 2024. In January, they officially launched their service in Las Vegas, putting them as their first commercial rideshare with teledrivers.

“Working on technically very challenging problems is something I really enjoy, especially when you actually see everything come together for the end product,” concludes Karsten, “and it’s great being a part of this mission and clearly seeing the benefits.” Ultimately, that benefit includes making cities more livable for everyone, freeing up space from cars, creating more room for parks and playgrounds to be enjoyed.

See Vay’s teledriving in action!

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