Autos giant Peugeot is trialing driverless tech — with a twist — for Amazon-style deliveries

Must read

The Peugeot e-3008 electric car on display during a presentation at the Stellantis car factory in Sochaux, France.

Arnaud Finistre | AFP via Getty Images

PARIS, France — French car giant Peugeot told CNBC this week that it’s partnering with Vay, a German mobility startup, to integrate so-called “teledriving” tech — an alternative to autonomous cars — into its vehicles. 

The deal will see the two companies assess the use of Vay’s teledriving tech on “last-mile delivery” vans and smaller logistics vehicles, with a focus on business-to-business (B2B) customers. 

The idea is to recreate the journey a delivery vehicle typically takes from an order fulfillment center to households or businesses, similar to the widely-known model already offered by Amazon — only this time with remote-controlled cars.

The first pilot test drives of Vay’s technology with Peugeot vehicles are expected to take place this year. Peugeot is looking to include the tech in its E-3008 electric SUVs and some electric vans.

The partnership has been 18 months in the making, Justin Spratt, Vay’s chief business officer, told CNBC via emailed comments, adding that it selected Peugeot as its first OEM partner for integration of its teledriving tech due to its “innovative standing and wider customer demographic.”

Spratt said its deal with Peugeot will “showcase how delivery operations can be made more efficient — as vehicles can be delivered on demand, redistributed and taken to cleaning and charging — in a more cost-effective way.”

What is teledriving?

“Teledriven” vehicles are a little like massive remote-controlled cars — only they’re big enough to fit a person inside.

Unlike self-driving cars — which can drive themselves without a human controlling the vehicle — teledriven cars are driven remotely by human operators using a live feed of the environment surrounding the car.

Teledrivers undergo several weeks of rigorous training and receive certification before they’re allowed to operate one of Vay’s teledrive stations.

Vay says its technology works particularly well with short-distance trips, making it suitable for so-called last-mile deliveries, as well as in logistics centers. Last-mile deliveries refer to the last leg of an order’s journey to your door.

Peugeot is a French brand of automobiles owned by Netherlands-based firm Stellantis

Stellantis, whose portfolio of brands also includes Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Citroen and Maserati, was formed from a merger of Fiat Chrysler and PSA Groupe in 2021. 

We believe it can drive large cost savings for all logistics companies, in particular ecommerce delivery. By decoupling drivers from the commercial vehicles at the distribution centres, it can reduce operational costs significantly. He added that Vay is also exploring the use of teledriving technology to address last-mile delivery through on-vehicle lockers linked to unique customer QR codes for pick-up.

Justin Spratt

Chief Business Officer, Vay

Vay is showing off its teledriving tech with Peugeot this week at the Viva Technology industry trade fair in Paris.  

“We believe it can drive large cost savings for all logistics companies, in particular ecommerce delivery,” Spratt told CNBC. “By decoupling drivers from the commercial vehicles at the distribution centres, it can reduce operational costs significantly.”

He added that Vay is also exploring the use of teledriving technology to address last-mile delivery through on-vehicle lockers linked to unique customer QR codes for pick-up.

Earlier this year, Vay announced the launch of a commercial teledriving service in Las Vegas, Nevada, enabling people to order cars to their location, which they can then drive themselves to their intended destination. 

Once a user is done with their trip, Vay’s teledriver can take over remotely and park the car, or drive it back to base. 

Vay has already conducted tests on public roads in Europe and the U.S. with remote drivers and no one behind the wheel. It is now working to get full regulatory approval for the tech on both sides of the Atlantic.

Founded in 2018 by tech entrepreneur Thomas von der Ohe, Vay has raised over $110 million in funding from investors including Kinnevik, Coatue, Eurazeo, Atomico, La Famiglia, and Creandum. 

Von der Ohe was formerly a technical program manager at Zoox, the self-driving car startup Amazon purchased for an undisclosed sum in 2020. 

Notably, Vay says its technology is designed in such a way that it can eventually support self-driving functionality, as it is collecting valuable data on the physical environment. The company says it doesn’t plan to introduce an autonomous driving product any time soon, but sees teledriving as more of a “bridge” between manual driving and self-driving cars.

More articles

Latest article