Home Fleets and TrucksAutomated Fleets Imperium Drive launches ‘world’s first’ robocar hire service in the UK

Imperium Drive launches ‘world’s first’ robocar hire service in the UK

by Kevin Jost
Most of the Fetch fleet of remotely piloted EVs.
Most of the Fetch fleet of remotely piloted EVs.

British startup Imperium Drive has launched a new on-demand car-hailing service using remote-controlled driverless vehicles. Following an 18-month trial backed by the UK government and industry, the Fetch service is beginning as a paying service in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. Plans call for the service to be rolled out across the country to connect with other urban areas and key transport interchanges such as airports.

The startup says that, while remote driving technology is already being trialed in other countries, Fetch is the first commercial application in the world. The service represents the first step towards fully autonomous vehicles operating on UK roads, with the company aiming to transition to full autonomy for car deliveries in the next five years. Backing up the effort is a leadership team with a combined 45 years of experience in telecom, robotics, autonomous vehicles, and advanced mobility with more than 60 patents.

A customer can hail a car through the Fetch app, available from the Apple App and Google Play stores, indicating when it is needed and for how long. An EV (electric vehicle) is then delivered via remote control by an operator. The customer drives the car themselves to their destination. When the rental period is up, the remote operator takes over and pilots the vehicle back to the base or to the next user.

The Fetch remote control center and operator.
The Fetch remote control center and operator.

“It’s driverless but not autonomous—yet,” said Koosha Kaveh, Co-Founder and CEO of Imperium Drive. “There’s still a human involved, but they’re sitting in a control center piloting the vehicle in the same way you would a drone.”

When fully autonomous, Kaveh believes the system has the potential to replace private car ownership in the UK.

“Why pay all the costs of having a car on your drive when you can just pay for one to arrive when you need it,” he said. “For short trips, the service offers the same convenience as a ride-hailing or taxi service, but with the ability to cover greater distances at less than half the cost of services like Uber or Bolt.”

There are currently four cars in the fleet operating within a 4-mi radius of the Milton Keynes city-center hub. Further regional hubs are planned to enable intercity travel and airport transfers. To ensure the safety of occupants and other road users, the cars have multiple cameras giving the operator a 360-degree view. The operating system uses computer image algorithms to detect anything near the car.

The technology has three major elements: AI-based link prediction, link-aware streaming, and link-aware control.

Company engineers have developed algorithms that predict with more than 95% accuracy the end-to-end network behavior using available parameters from cellular networks. They enable in-time adaptation of the streaming and control systems for robust and safe teleoperation in uncontrolled environments.

Their proprietary streaming engine adapts to network variations, ensuring the timely transmission of the most critical information from the vehicle. This ensures that critical information about the driving environment such as lane boundaries and pedestrians are transmitted reliably to the remote operator.

The novel active safety system uses advanced link-aware control algorithms to ensure safe and smooth vehicle operation by listening to the network prediction and streaming engine. The link-aware controller handles extreme network conditions such as a sudden loss of signal or highly unstable links by executing maneuvers that ensure vehicle safety.

You may also like