Automotive

World-first trial puts remote-controlled passenger cars on UK roads

World-first trial puts remote-...
StreetDrone has demonstrated a modified Nissan van that can pass control between a human driver, an autonomous system, and a remote-control tele-operator
StreetDrone has demonstrated a modified Nissan van that can pass control between a human driver, an autonomous system, and a remote-control tele-operator
View 2 Images
StreetDrone has demonstrated a modified Nissan van that can pass control between a human driver, an autonomous system, and a remote-control tele-operator
1/2
StreetDrone has demonstrated a modified Nissan van that can pass control between a human driver, an autonomous system, and a remote-control tele-operator
The tele-operator sees live vision through cameras on the car, and drives it using a racing game-like setup
2/2
The tele-operator sees live vision through cameras on the car, and drives it using a racing game-like setup

Once the steering wheel is taken out of cars altogether, there will still need to be a way to deal with weird "edge case" situations that an autonomous AI can't figure out. That may require human drivers to stay on standby, ready to take the wheel by remote control until the self-driving system is comfortable enough to continue.

A UK Government-funded project has just demonstrated such a system for the first time, with vehicles on public roads in Oxford and London switching control between a driver, an autonomous system and a remote teleoperator over a cyber-secure connection.

“The success of this trial conducted not in a controlled environment but out on the public highway, is blending autonomous technologies with teleoperation to prove an advanced level of technology readiness that can now deliver much-needed efficiencies into the supply chain," said Mike Potts, CEO of StreetDrone, which provided and managed the autonomous and remote control systems. "Where tasks are too complex for autonomous technologies, teleoperations steps in. This integration provides a ‘ready-now’ solution and it has been a sight to behold to see it in operation.”

The tele-operator sees live vision through cameras on the car, and drives it using a racing game-like setup
The tele-operator sees live vision through cameras on the car, and drives it using a racing game-like setup

The remote drivers' workstations look a lot like racing game setups, featuring three widescreen monitors, a steering wheel and pedal setup. Evidently connectivity in the UK is fast and reliable enough that these demonstrations didn't suffer from show-stopping lag or dropouts, which is almost as impressive as the teleoperation system itself.

Such remote control systems have been widely talked about with respect to fully autonomous eVTOL aircraft, but we hadn't heard the idea raised when it comes to self-driving cars. That's mainly because the steering wheel will remain part of the car for a long time yet, and human drivers will be able to take over when required. But anything that hits the road without a steering wheel on board will need a last-resort fallback option, no matter how advanced the autonomous system gets. And remote control could well be the answer.

Check out the video below.

Encode demonstration video

Source: StreetDrone

4 comments
4 comments
paul314
Remote operation must be incredibly stressful. You have to ignore your immediate surroundings and focus on the screens, knowing that even a few seconds inattention could kill people.
Bob Flint
Not so much the fact they can't really sue a machine, but a remote operator with likely many milliseconds of lag time, not to mention dirty or obscured cameras can be far more problematic. Maybe the passenger if one's onboard has an override capability in emergencies such as trapped in a collision...
David V
And this is the future? Let's put a driver in a room and he can drive an empty car (an expensive one that he doesn't own) by remote if by chance he gets an alarm bell to say "quick there's going to be an accident !" while he's drinking his coffee or dunking his doughnut. How they even thought how wrong this can go? I'll have a go but I'll be on the can when needed. Or maybe if it's a €2M Tesla I'll drive into a post just for fun.
So what is the empty car going to do when it gets where it's going?
Most of the possible uses studied that I have come across seem to promote the idea of passenger/taxi/bus/people mover/delivery scenarios.
Seems to me they all need a human helper to direct/carry/unload/deliver sometime. So where is he? Ah yes, at home being important drinking his coffee.
alan c
paul314 a standby (onboard) driver in the USA has already killed a pedestrian. She was watching her 'phone when the system she was paid to monitor failed to spot the pedestrian.
David V couldn't agree more. Replacing 20 million or more drivers with the same number of teenage minimum wage standby drivers is too ridiculous to contemplate.
It's not 1st of April yet....