By Lemor Abrams

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Cruising into the future.

The Capital City may not be California’s biggest, but it may soon be the first major city to test out a brand new driverless car program that claims to hold the key to driverless car safety.

Phantom Auto’s four-door sedan recently cruised through the Capitol City, without a driver. But the car didn’t really drive itself.

There was someone behind the wheel more than 100 miles away in Mountain View ready to grab the wheel as if he was actually in the car.

“He’s doing it right now as we speak he’s actually driving in San Francisco,” said Shai Magzimof, the startup’s founder.

He skyped with us from that remote control center, where that remote driver may soon be navigating that high tech ride through Sacramento a lot more often.

“Sacramento is the locus of power. We have all the politicians here, we have all the regulatory bodies here, and we have a citizenry that’s actually hungry for this kind of technology,” said a Sacramento’s Chief Innovation Officer Louis Stewart.

Stewart is paving the way for Phantom Auto to roll out a test program on city streets by June.

It’ll use a 5G Verizon internet connection to operate the car. That’s another tech partnership the city recently entered in.

But it won’t give the car full autonomy.

“There’s gonna be a safety operator in the vehicle. We don’t have empty vehicles yet and then we map the network and we know where are the good areas for autonomy’s vehicles to operate that we can help in case there was a problem,” said Magzimof.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg recently tested it out with Rep. Doris Matsui and Sacramento Kings Owner Vivek Ranadive.

The goal is to have the cars ready in time for a possible NBA All-Star Game in 2022 or 2023. The Sacramento Kings’ bid to host the game includes using driverless cars to get people to and from the Golden 1 Center.

Connecting Sacramento, one stop at a time.

“In California and in Sacramento, were super focused on safety, really trying to figure out how this works for the people,” said Stewart.

The program won’t be cheap – costing about $500,000, but the city and other stakeholders —like Regional Transit, Sac State, and UC Davis would only pay for about 20% of it.


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