Learning to Remotely Pilot at Halo.car

Ever wondered how Halo cars move without a driver? It's all thanks to our skilled remote pilots and their extensive training. 

What is a remote pilot?

When you order a Halo.car, two key roles work together to bring it to you: the remote pilot and the safety driver.

Remote Pilots sit in our control center in Las Vegas, controlling the vehicle using a console that provides a real-time view of the car’s surroundings. These pilots aren't physically in the car but play a crucial role in driving it to your doorstep.

Then there's the Safety Driver, our safety net. As we train new remote pilots and test our remote piloting technology in new locations, it’s vital that there is a safety backup to the technology in the case where the remote pilot or the technology encounters an issue. This is the role that safety drivers fill, acting as a second line of defense to take over or stop the vehicle if needed.

Safety drivers and remote pilots are cross-trained, meaning all remote pilots are trained as safety drivers and vice versa. Safety drivers and remote pilots are in close communication with each other during operations, so it’s crucial that they have the same training to understand how best to work together. 

How do you learn to remotely drive?

Many of our remote pilots were drivers for services like Uber or Lyft before joining Halo. While some skills required for remote piloting come from regular driving, like spatial awareness and understanding of road rules, remote pilots also need additional competencies. Remote piloting requires adapting the driving skills and decision-making we all do on the road every day to a new, technologically advanced environment.

Key skill 1: Remote interpretation and control.

Learning to drive using the live video feed from the car's cameras and sensors. 

Looking at a 3D environment on a 2D screen requires acclimatizing to how “depth” or distance is represented on the screen, using visual information rather than tactile and other sensory information to judge things like speed. Remote pilot trainees learn how to evaluate the speed and movement of their car and of different objects with learning exercises where a safety driver in the vehicle is communicating back to them. 

Example exercise: Remote pilot trainees practice pulling up the vehicle to a set of cones that simulate a parking spot. A safety driver in the vehicle announces to the RP trainee how far the car is from the cones (“3 feet away. 2 feet away. Stop.”). Trainees learn to correlate what they see on the screen to real-life distances. 

After several practices like this, the RP trainee performs the same exercise - pulling into the simulated parking spot - with the safety driver remaining silent. The trainee successfully passes the exercise if they can park within 1 foot of the cones without guidance or intervention from the safety driver. 

Key skill 2: Observation and communication 

Our remote pilot team plays dual roles. They remotely deliver cars to customers in the operational business, and they play a crucial role internally supporting our engineering team to test new software, hardware, and vehicles. 

A key upcoming goal at Halo is to remove safety drivers from our vehicles, enabling remote pilots to deliver vehicles to customers without anyone inside the car. Achieving this requires vast amounts of testing to prove the reliability and safe operations of the remote pilot technology and the fall-back safety systems we have developed, which replace the safety driver’s role by stopping the vehicle if there is an issue. 

Today we have 15 engineers working full-time on these technology systems. The remote pilot team leads the road-testing of each new release of these systems, collecting data to report back on the performance, improvements and challenges with each change. 

Remote pilots learn to identify and vocalize what they are observing for the benefit of their safety driver and the testing analyst in the room. While driving, they might comment on the quality of the video stream or the movements of pedestrians they can see. At the end of the day, they might share feedback on how the cameras performed in certain lighting, the network performance in different areas or times of day, or any other interesting observations from the day’s driving. 

Through their observations and feedback, remote pilots play a critical role in our development process, helping advance the technology and the goals of the business whilst ensuring safe operations.

The journey of a thousand miles begins

Remote pilot training starts with safety driver training and communications training. 

After their initial introduction to the technology and their new teammates, trainees begin their remote pilot journey by sitting in a remote-piloted vehicle beside an experienced safety driver. They study the communications procedures and interactions and get used to being in a remotely driven vehicle. 

Then, in a parking lot, trainees swap into the safety driver seat and begin practicing safety driver skills - taking control of the vehicle from the remote pilot, returning control, and communicating all throughout. Controlled environments like parking lots are extremely helpful in the training and technology testing process, eliminating additional variables that make testing more challenging or risky.

After demonstrating their grasp of the communications protocol and safety mindset of the safety driver, trainees progress from the parking lot to the streets. An experienced remote pilot drives the vehicle on roads here in Las Vegas with the trainee safety driver in the vehicle, drilling communications protocol, take-overs, interacting with pedestrians and other vehicles, and handling unexpected situations.

Once they have proved themselves as a safety driver, trainees begin learning how to pilot the car remotely. They go through many hours of practice in a parking lot (with a safety driver in the vehicle), navigating cones laid out to simulate different scenarios like parking, lane changes, and turns. Trainees receive constant feedback on their vehicle positioning, such as if they are too close or too far from the simulated lane lines, taking a turn too widely or cutting it too close.

Finally, once trainees have mastered remote piloting in a controlled environment they move on to the roads, putting their skills into practice in the real world environment. Our remote pilots are expected to demonstrate good driving and decision-making at all times: following road rules, navigating the pedestrians and vehicles around them, and driving in a manner that ensures the safety and comfort of all road users. 

Throughout the process, peers assess each other's readiness to move forward, fostering a culture of shared accountability. 

Certified Halo.Car pilots remotely drive at speeds of up to 25mph, and it is through on-road training that they build the skills and confidence to safely pilot vehicles at this speed. 

Endless opportunities

Training to become a remote pilot is an intense but exciting journey. 

Our remote pilots become a tightly-knit team, closely interacting with our expert engineers and contributing to essential business decisions. The environment fosters not only skill development but also leadership opportunities.

Once a trainee accumulates 50 hours of Remote Pilot training, they qualify to join Halo’s "Edge team” – our special unit responsible for deploying Halo cars to customers. 

Romario, one of our Edge team remote pilots, says, "The challenge of becoming a remote pilot at Halo was tough but super exciting. I'm not just involved in driving the car, but I'm also a part of developing new technology. The learning never stops, and that keeps things interesting."

Ultimately, the continuous learning dedication of our remote pilots and safety drivers brings the magic of Halo.car to life. They ensure every ride is safe, smooth, and right on time.

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