Phantom Auto will begin testing autonomous vehicles in Sacramento, Calif., under a new agreement with the city that allows testing with no occupants in the car. The vehicles will be operated by remote drivers at computers in Silicon Valley, reports the Sacramento Bee.
The first step of the deal is to prepare Sacramento over the next six months to pioneer testing without in-car safety drivers or occupants. To date, no city in California has allowed this.
Typically, autonomous vehicle testing is done with a human safety operator sitting in the driver’s seat in case they need to take the wheel.
Phantom Auto, which provides technology for remote monitoring of autonomous vehicles, would instead monitor the vehicles via a person in an office at a computer screen, who can take control of the car if its on-board system fails to navigate correctly.
The company will spend the next several months exploring Sacramento streets to ensure self-driving vehicles can maintain ongoing wireless connections to the engineers who will be responsible for them remotely.