T-Mobile And Halo Team Up To Launch 5G Semi-AV Taxi Service

By Patrick Moorhead - July 30, 2021
T-Mobile Halo T-MOBILE

This week, Halo Launched its driverless car service in Las Vegas, Nevada, one of the first forms of semi-Autonomous vehicle services to launch. With the help of T-Mobile and its nationwide 5G network, Halo will begin driving on Las Vegas' public roads earlier this year. I have said in other blogs that I believe Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) will be one of the most impactful, paradigm-shifting innovations we'll see in our lifetimes. For it to happen, we must see scalability.  

T-Mobile works directly with many startups to help develop, test, and bring to market groundbreaking 5G products and services that showcase what its network can do. Halo is one of these startup companies and has been under the radar and in a stealth mode for the past couple of years. Much of what we have seen in the AV space has to do with automating commercial vehicles like what Amazon is doing with AV company Plus. Like NI's acquisition of MonoDrive, many other projects are still in the planning and pre-launch phases. However, the technology is getting there, and we have seen many strides to bring us to a public launch. Halo's pivotal launch is a spearhead for driverless vehicles in the consumer AV space and a showcase of how 5G will radically change our future. Let's dive into what makes Halo's pivotal launch so unique and promising. 

How Halo is launching its new service 

Halo is using T-Mobile's fast 5G coverage to summon a driverless vehicle for residents and visitors in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada. Like ordering an Uber or a taxi, people can order a vehicle to their location. Then the vehicle is remotely piloted to the users' location where, on arrival, they can drive the car freely to their destination and not worry about parking it anywhere as someone will remotely drive it to the next customer.  

T-Mobile's 5G network plays a huge role in Halo's service by ensuring that the safety and control of the vehicles are always in the hands of Halo. Halo says it has a highly skilled team of professional remote pilots, and they can see what the car is seeing and doing in real-time. Halo vehicles use T-Mobile's reliable 5G network with a primary focus on speed to successfully drive the vehicle and ensure that passengers and other drivers are always safe. Halo says its focus is on speed because having a low latency, which is a subcategory of speed, is of utmost importance when it comes to getting data to the right places at the right time. Latency is the measurement of delay between two connections, so you can imagine the need for a remote driver to have the information without delay in high-speed multivariable situations. 

The view of a professional Halo driver remotely driving a Halo vehicle. T-MOBILE

One element of this whole operation that I was taken back by is that T-Mobiles ultra-fast mmWave band is not needed. Halo says it does a good job of optimizing the bandwidth requirements but where these vehicles drive is usually in areas where the mid band is in play. John Saw at T-Mobile said that mid band is going to be the workhorse for applications like this. I think this is the tip of the iceberg for 5G and this launch is a great proof of concept for future technologies that will be relying on 5G to change the world. 

The difficulty of a consumer-based AV market 

While I believe AVs will be one of the most impactful, paradigm-shifting innovations we'll see in our lifetimes, I also believe it will be one of, if not the most controversial innovations in our lifetime. The technology falls under a very high-risk moderate reward business model, and its hard to avoid because the risk is literal. Anand Nandakumar, the founder and CEO of Halo, says, "Full autonomy is a massive challenge from both a technical and social trust perspective that won't be solved for years to come." AVs take on a high liability and need for trust, especially for consumers, and it goes without mentioning the ethical dilemma that can easily stir up controversy.  

Halo's bold strategy to tackle this need of trust comes from its roadmap and plan to work with local municipalities to accelerate the adoption rate. The plan comes in multiple phases that start with automated vehicles with remote professional drivers to fully AVs connected to public transit systems. Halo starts with a solution that consumers will feel comfortable using today over a building up of trust.  

Anand Nandakumar, the founder and CEO of Halo, standing in front of T-Mobile arena. T-MOBILE

Each phase of Halo's initiative to bring fully AVs to public roads looks to solve everyday problems. One of the unique problems that phase one solves is the burden of finding public parking. To quote Madagascar 2, my nephew's favorite movie, "New York is short on two things, parking and hippos." Every city is short on parking, and Halo says that it solves the parking problem wherever its cars drive. While this problem is a matter of convenience, throughout the different phases of Halo's initiative, it looks to tackle problems like road safety, vehicle emissions, and pushing forward the adoption of electronic vehicles.  

Every phase has its purpose for building up trust with the public and solving real-world problems now. Halo's understanding of safety for passengers and others on the road is at the forefront of its initiative in every phase. In an interview with Nandakumar, he mentions that Halo takes much of its inspiration from aerospace and aviation in that every component is redundant and every system is redundant. I think having this mindset that AV safety should be aerospace-grade safety will be critical to the success of Halo and the narrative that plays into AVs in the future to come. I've written here about how Qualcomm works to make more sensors and compute inside tomorrow's automobiles that drives this point well. 

Similarly, Intel's Mobileye is using radar and lidar technology that will provide "total redundancy." All that to say, It is not just a Halo problem. It is an AVs Industry problem that I think the whole industry is tackling well.  

Wrapping up 

For T-Mobile, Halo's launch of AV taxis in Las Vegas, Nevada, proves that its 5G network has the speed and coverage to sustain critical technologies like the AV industry. In the AV industry, it is of utmost importance to have coverage and low latency to ensure the safety of riders and those around you.  

Halo has a unique solution to tackling the cultural lens to which we see autonomous driving. By phasing into full autonomy rather than jump straight into it, It has a plan for the adoption of AV on a mass scale, and it is strategic. I'm not saying it has everything figured out, but from the looks of it it is going in the right direction, answering all the right questions in a unique and calculated fashion.   

I'm excited to see more projects like these that take advantage of our 5G infrastructure and give us a glimpse of the future.  

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy senior analyst Anshel Sag and co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article. 

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.