World’s first commercial driverless rent-a-car service launches in Milton Keynes

    Milton Keynes is all set to welcome the world’s first commercial driverless “Robot” rent-a-car service!

    Fetch is an on-demand car renting service by Buckinghamshire-based British start-up Imperium Drive that will deliver remote-controlled driverless vehicles directly to the customer’s door. While the service is expected to be launched in all major urban areas and key public transport interchanges like airports and railway stations across the UK soon, it will first be introduced in Milton Keynes. Although the system is not fully autonomous yet, there is an expectation that full automation will eventually allow it to fully replace private car ownership in the future. Currently, there are four cars in the Imperium Drive fleet, operating within a four-mile radius of the Milton Keynes city centre hub. 

    But how does it work?

    Customers can hire a car through the Fetch app and choose when they need it and for how long. Once all the information has been fed into the app, a remote operator-controlled electric vehicle is then dispatched and delivered to them. The system is based on the same concept of flying a drone where the driver sits in a control centre piloting the car. To ensure the safety of customers and other road users, the cars have multiple cameras attached to them, giving the operator a 360-degree view of the surroundings. The operating system uses computer image algorithms to detect anything near the car so the remote driver can react and manoeuvre accordingly. The customer drives the car to their destination themselves. When the rental period is over, the remote car operator takes over and pilots it back to the base or the next user.

    So, what are the benefits of going driverless?

    Koosha Kaveh, the chief executive of Imperium Drive believes that the biggest advantage of renting a driverless vehicle is that customers can just pay for a car to arrive when they need it instead of bearing all the costs of having one on the drive. He is determined that “the service offers the same convenience as a taxi service for short trips but can cover greater distances at less than half the cost of existing commercial ride-hailing services like Uber or Bolt. It is the first step towards fully autonomous vehicles operating on UK roads. We aim to transition to full autonomy for car deliveries in the next five years.” Although limited to Milton Keynes at the moment, further regional hubs are already in the pipeline to enable intercity travel and airport transfers.

    This is not the first time Milton Keynes has been chosen to introduce autonomous robot vehicles. It was also the first city in the UK to welcome an autonomous robot food delivery service launched by Starship Technologies. Thanks to its modern infrastructure, road layout, connectivity, availability of a skilled workforce, and access to technology, Milton Keynes remains one of the best, most preferred cities for launching new technology in the UK. 

    Want to read more articles and tech news in the city and the world? Visit Biztech, the official business and technology forum of Milton Keynes.

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