German start-up Vay is betting that remotely driven tele-taxis will prove to be safer than true autonomous vehicles. (Source: Adobe Stock)

Vay Use of Remote Drivers for Taxis Will Improve Safety, Pass Regulatory Review

A group of German entrepreneurs may have built a better mousetrap, or rather, a new way to run a robotaxi—by remote control. An article from describes how it operates in a busy German thoroughfare:

“A white Kia is skillfully navigating double-parked cars, roadworks, cyclists, and pedestrians. Dan, the driver, strikes up a conversation with his passengers, remarking on the changing traffic lights and the sound of an ambulance screaming past in the other direction. But Dan isn’t in the car.

“Instead, he’s half a mile away at the offices of German startup Vay. The company kits its cars out with radar, GPS, ultrasound, and an array of other sensors to allow drivers like Dan to control the vehicles remotely from a purpose-built station equipped with a driver’s seat, steering wheel, pedals, and three monitors providing visibility in front of the car and to its side.”

 A Teletaxi

Vay is a different approach to autonomous vehicles that was brought about after engineers got tired of waiting for dependable EVs to come to market.

Or as co-founder Thomas von der Ohe put it:

“Robotaxis, for the past 10 years or so, it always seems like they are three years out,” he says. “We actually still don’t know. So we thought about a different approach—how can we get something to market quicker that has great benefits for the customer and cities?”

Remote human assistance, von der Ohe realized, had many benefits over fully autonomous vehicles. It could prevent cars from getting stuck in tricky situations, and address safety concerns. Plus, it could be ready years, if not decades, sooner.

“Why don’t we just drive ourselves?” he says.

Vay was founded in 2018 with fellow entrepreneurs  Fabrizio Scelsi, and Bogdan Djukic. Von der Ohe said he got the idea while working at Zoox, one of the world’s leaders in robotaxi development. But Waymo, Tesla, and other manufacturers are interested in remote vehicles as a result.

Testing in Berlin

Vay, founded in 2018, has made major advances in the past year. It started with a “small toy car,” but now has a fleet of cars and drivers at Berlin’s abandoned Tegel airport. Earlier this year, Vay opened its first U.S. office in Las Vegas. In February, one of the company’s cars became the first to drive on a public road in Europe without a person inside it.

“It showed that, from a regulatory and tech perspective, we’ve made so much progress that we can do that.”

Vay asserts that tele-drivers can bring a level of safety to the process that other autonomous vehicles lack. While EVs are a great idea, they are still years away from 100% security for passengers.

Having a tele-driver is much like the tele-pilots the armed forces use every day to fly drones and weapons of war into action while the pilot is safely positioned back at the base. This unique idea could become a key part of the AV transportation future.