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City Officials Ride Around Sacramento in Remotely Operated Car

SACRAMENTO -- The city of Sacramento took another step in trying to establish itself as an alternative transportation hub when city officials took rides in a car that was driven in the downtown area by an operator 100 miles away.

Several months ago, the city partnered with Phantom Auto, a Silicon Valley company that uses Israeli military technology to provide a backup system for autonomous vehicles.

Current California law requires a human driver to accompany any driverless vehicle for safety.

Phantom Auto allows a remote driver guided by a series of cameras and microphones to take over for auto sensors that have trouble negotiating emergency road closures, construction detours and four-way stop intersections.

The remote driver system relies on strong cell phone signals, which have already been mapped out by Phantom Auto along certain routes.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said it took getting used to when he looked over and there were no hands on the wheel. He said Phantom Auto’s presence in Sacramento to test its systems would be an economic boon for the region.

"Provides a real chance for us to create new industries here, new job opportunities, and it’s all good," Steinberg said.

Two separate driverless shuttle test projects were underway, one at Sacramento State and another at UC Davis.

In addition, the electric Jump bike and electric scooter programs were encouraged by the city and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

The system will be marketed to autonomous vehicle companies that will want to test their vehicles in Sacramento.

"I think there will be more autonomous vehicles coming to Sacramento that will be using our system," said Elliot Katz, co-founder of Phantom Auto.

More demonstration rides are planned between the Sacramento State campus and the 65th Street light rail station.

Katz said his system will likely be used initially by shuttles, buses or trucks, with personal vehicles to follow.

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