Sacramento Exploring New Driverless Vehicle Program

SACRAMENTO — Phantom Auto and the city of Sacramento are in discussions to start a research and development program to assess the feasibility of a driverless vehicle service in Sacramento.

Mountain View-based Phantom Auto specializes in so-called “remote teleoperation” automobile technology, which allows remote human operators to control driverless vehicles.

Conversations between the company and the city began shortly after the Sacramento Kings announced their bid in February to host the 2022 or 2023 NBA All-Star Game, according to Louis Stewart, Sacramento’s chief innovation officer. The Kings’ bid includes a plan to use autonomous vehicles to facilitate visitors’ travel around Sacramento. Phantom is responsible for the driverless vehicles incorporated into the Kings’ bid.

The partnership between Phantom and the city would assess the feasibility of remote-operated vehicles in Sacramento and explore potential service models for a driverless car program. Stewart said Phantom’s remote-operation vehicles would rely on Verizon Communications Inc.’s 5G wireless network, leveraging another tech partnership recently entered into by the city. The research and development program would last for approximately six months and cost about $460,000, according to a memo obtained by the Business Journal.

The city of Sacramento and other area stakeholders — including California State University Sacramento, University of California Davis and the Sacramento Regional Transit District — would cover an estimated $100,000 of those costs.

“The overarching goal for Phantom and all parties involved will be to lay the foundation for a long-term partnership with the city, enabling driverless services that fit the needs of the city and its partners,” Phantom stated in a March 16 memo obtained by the Business Journal.

Representatives of Phantom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read the memo here.

Continue reading Scott Rodd’s report for the Sacramento Business Journal here.