In Las Vegas Your Rental Car Comes to You, and Without a Driver

A futuristic form of on-demand transportation is very real, and it's available now.

Photo coutesy of Halo
Photo coutesy of Halo
Photo coutesy of Halo

Halo is a different kind of car rental service-one that puts a new spin on the idea of driverless vehicles. Place an order, and an employee will pilot an electric car via remote control to wherever you are in Downtown Las Vegas. Hop behind the wheel, and you’re free to use the vehicle for however long you like.

“The car comes to you when you want, where you want,” CEO & Founder Anand Nandakumar says. “That’s it.”

The remote drivers operate from the second floor of Halo’s headquarters in the Downtown Arts District, using FTE and 5G technology to communicate with the car. The room is dark to discourage conversation and distraction, almost like a movie theater. Each pilot sits in front of a system that resembles an advanced version of a video arcade driving game, complete with a steering wheel and foot pedals. Each car has three cameras in the front and three cameras in the rear, giving the remote driver a full 360-degree view of the vehicle’s surroundings, with radars and ultrasonics providing additional data.

Another version of the service, with cars dropped off and retrieved by an actual in-person driver, is in effect throughout the rest of the Las Vegas Valley, excluding the airport. Either way, once you receive the car, you can drive it to wherever you like-the Strip, Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, even out of state-as long as you return it somewhere in Las Vegas.

Photo courtesy of Halo
Photo courtesy of Halo
Photo courtesy of Halo

The price is $12 per hour (with a four-hour minimum) or a flat $92 per day. Taxes and insurance are extra. A sporty, all-electric Kia Niro subcompact arrives with a full charge, and customers aren’t required to “refill” the battery when returning the vehicle. However, if you need a boost while on the road, the EVs are compatible with Level 2 and Level 3 chargers, which are common in Strip casino parking garages.

“There are two types of customers we’re tracking at the moment.” Nandakumar says. “The first is tourists who are coming into Vegas and feel it’s good for them to have a car. The second is locals. They already have a car but have friends or family visiting and want a second car.”

While that second market is a welcome surprise, it could be a driver of long-term revenue. Nandakumar believes that once the service catches on, it will encourage two-car households to let go of the extra vehicle. The CEO notes that cost is the top reason people are hesitant to buy electric cars for themselves, and services like Halo will give sustainable driving a boost.

“The long term goal of the company is to transition the world away from gasoline cars to electric cars as fast as possible,” he says.Halo is also exploring a rideshare model in the near future, in which customers could pay per ride or book shorter time frames with the flexibility to stop for lunch, run errands, or pick up friends along the way. “We’ll be able to offer that 50% cheaper than a regular Uber ride,” according to Nandakumar.

He knows the industry well. Nandakumar formerly led engineering and self-driving technology departments at Uber before founding Halo in San Francisco. He relocated the company to Las Vegas due to Nevada’s combination of pro-business regulations and progressive views toward sustainable technology.

In recent years, Las Vegas has become something of a business incubator for forward-thinking ground transportation alternatives. Amazon-owned Zoox is already testing driverless robotaxis on public roads while Motional has relationships with Lyft and Uber to bring autonomous electric vehicles to rideshare customers. Elon Musk’s The Boring Company is constructing an underground EV tunnel system that currently operates between the Las Vegas Convention Center and Resorts World with 81 stations approved as part of the Vegas Loop. (It’s worth noting the system uses Teslas with human drivers and has critics who say, “Why not make it a subway instead?” The Boring Company’s Hyperloop system, which has conducted tests outside Vegas, seems quiet of late, though Musk has floated the idea of using the high-speed technology in his tunnels.)

Nevada has one more advantage for Halo: “The topography is flat,” Nandakumar says. “There are no hills and little rain. It’s a very clean testing environment for us.”

Some other issues need to be sorted out, however, like what happens if a police officer pulls over a driverless car. The Halo team quickly points out that remote drivers undergo extensive background checks and training; are more focused on the road than the average driver; and don’t have phones, entertainment systems, and other distractions. Still, unexpected incidents could happen, and Halo is currently working with the Nevada state government and DMV to initiate new laws that would apply. Long story short: Remote drivers are just as responsible for the car as in-person drivers.

Halo has been testing its technology and system for four years and is now operating in “stage three,” which means a chaser car still follows the remote car during service. See what it’s all about by going online and ordering a car to wherever you happen to be in Las Vegas right now. Drivers must be 25 or older and have a valid driver’s license.

Rob Kachelriess is a full-time freelance writer who covers travel, dining, entertainment, and other fun stuff for Thrillist. He’s based in Las Vegas but enjoys exploring destinations throughout the world, especially in the Southwest United States. Otherwise, he’s happy to hang out at home with his wife Mary and their family of doggies. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess. Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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