19 Feb 18

A remote driver for overwhelmed driverless cars

An issue driverless car manufacturers are struggling with, is what to do with cars that can't figure out what to do in a particular situation. Should the occupants take control of the vehicle? Should there be a software solution? Phantom Auto has the answer: they employ drivers that can take the wheel from a remote operations centre.

Others are doing similar things. Nissan, for instance, developed a Seamless Autonomous Mobility system that the carmaker presented at CES in 2017. A car that gets stuck can rely on human intervention to get it out of its predicament. Nissan's system is very different, though. It sends mapping information to the car, which then executes the new route by itself.

Operations centre

Phantom Auto's drivers actually drive the car. The driver in the company's operations centre physically takes over the wheel of the car, while he is sitting in front of a wall of tv monitors. According to some sources that have made test drives with this system, it results in a smoother, less jerky ride than that driverless cars typically provide.

The system is currently undergoing testing. A first major hurdle that seems to have been taken, is latency. That's how engineers refer to the delay that occurs when transferring data to and from the vehicle to the operations centre. For the system to be practical and safe, latency needs to be as low as possible.

The last 2%

Phantom Auto seems to have found a way to provide a strong, consistent and fast connection. They do so by combining mobile networks from various providers, including AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

The start-up claims having major OEMs in its customer base but it is yet to disclose names. Phantom Auto also reports it cannot work with companies that have trouble getting to the last 40% of autonomous driving. The last 2%, that's what they can offer.

Photo: Phantom Auto

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck