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Rental cars delivered in Milton Keynes by remote driver in ‘video-game’ like manner

By Tom Gibson | June 2, 2023


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The cars still have a safety driver behind the wheel but hope to be fully autonomous within the next 18 months

Rental cars delivered in Milton Keynes by remote driver in ‘video-game’ like manner

A new car rental service has been introduced in Milton Keynes that sees cars delivered to a location by a driver sitting behind a TV using a video-game like steering wheel.

The remarkable technology is delivered by a company called Fetch, and after undergoing extensive testing in the city for the last 18 months, has now launched to customers.

Imperium Drive, the company responsible for this innovative service where cars are operated by an office-based driver, proudly claims it to be the first of its kind in Europe.

Chief executive Koosha Kaveh said: "It's driverless but not autonomous - yet."

While the cars currently rely on safety drivers who sit in the front of the vehicle, the company aims to eliminate their need within the next 18 months through additional testing.

The car's remote operator benefits from a comprehensive 360-degree view of the roads using built-in vehicle cameras while the operating software is equipped with anti-crash safety systems.

Customers can conveniently rent electric cars through an app and, although they then go on to drive the vehicles as usual, a remote operator makes sure the cars are delivered to any location within a four-mile (6.4km) radius of Milton Keynes city centre. Once the rental period ends, the operator regains control and returns the vehicle to the base.

During the past 18 months of testing, the cars have been extensively tested on the city's roads, covering over 1,000 miles (1,609km) without a single collision, according to Imperium Drive.

Mr Kaveh said: "There's still a human involved, but they're sitting in a control centre piloting the vehicle in the same way you would a drone.

"When fully autonomous, we think this system has the potential to replace private car ownership in the UK."

However, a spokesman for the RAC said it was concerned that remotely driving a vehicle distances the driver from the potential road safety consequences "in a video game-like manner".

Simon Williams added: "Although the remote driver has a reasonable view in front and around them, by not being present in the vehicle they are - like it or not - somewhat disconnected from the reality of actually being behind the wheel.

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