Poppy announces European first with tele-driving rollout

In full transition to a mobility provider, D’Ieteren is taking a pioneering step by introducing tele-driving on Belgian roads. Partnering with Ush, the driverless vehicle arm of the company, and Poppy, Benelux’s largest car-share provider, operations are scheduled for later this year. The service must boost the efficiency and customer experience of car sharing.

Ush and Poppy are both subsidiaries of D’Ieteren, but Vay is its key partner in remotely controlled vehicles. This Berlin-based start-up made headlines one year ago as the first company in Europe to operate vehicles on public roads without any occupants. Beginning this year, the company launched its first commercial mobility service in Las Vegas, and the liaison with D’Ieteren is a European first.

“Missing piece of the puzzle”

Tele-driving implies that the car is controlled by a person in a remote office. With access to the vehicle controls, he or she can, almost gamelike, take over the entire command by watching video footage supplied by cameras. It’s distance-controlled autonomous driving. As a person is still steering, albeit by joystick, one might wonder where the benefits lie.

“Tele-driving is the missing piece of the puzzle for car-share business operators,” stated Justin Spratt, Chief Business Officer at Vay. “We’re working with Poppy and Ush to unlock the full value that car-share needs to drive up efficiency and effectiveness for customers and showcase how remote driving can increase profitability in a sector known for fine margins.” The tele-driving solution aims to enhance maintenance, delivery, and collection.

Customers no longer need to move towards a shared car, which can be delivered to the desired address. The car-sharing company saves time as it can regroup its fleet without customer intervention or send some cars to workshops without any of its staff physically collecting them.

According to Vay, the technology could increase vehicle redistribution efficiency by up to 200%, allowing car-share operators like Poppy to expand their business without increasing fleet size.

Alternative to public transport

Poppy operates a fleet of 2,300 cars and will integrate tele-driving as a pilot project first by the end of the year. A permit is pending. Both companies highlight that the technology can bridge the gap between private car ownership and public transport.

Upgrading Poppy’s fleet with tele-driving can also address traffic flow issues and provide a more eco-friendly alternative. Beyond car sharing, this technology also can enhance driver services, car rentals, delivery services, and electric vehicle charging operations.

Max Levandowski, CEO at Ush, expresses optimism: “We are convinced that tele-driving as a service offers a whole range of possibilities. It is a way to expand service to customers and businesses and eliminate inefficiencies.”

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