December 9, 2021

How Does Remote Driving Work?

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What Is Remote Driving?

Remote driving is one part of what is known as ‘teleoperation.’ Teleoperation is the umbrella that encompasses monitoring, assistance, and driving of autonomous vehicles via a teleoperator from a remote location. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) that use remote driving are mainly away from the public and public roads, such as at airports, logistic centers, warehouses, shipping ports, and mining, agriculture, and construction.

What Is Ottopia’s ATAS® In Remote Driving?

A remote operator may encounter two significant teleoperation challenges: situational awareness and (their own) human error. Advanced Teleoperator Assistance System (ATAS) is a system that works with remote drivers to prevent collisions. Suppose a vehicle requires remote control driving and the teleoperator doesn’t notice a hazard due to a blind spot, connection problems, or plain human error. In that case, ATAS alerts the teleoperator and emergency brakes in the worst-case scenario.

First, there is a collision warning. Next comes collision avoidance. During the drive, LiDAR, perception, and computations capabilities notice each object in the field view of the AV. As the vehicle progresses, the speed and trajectory of the wheel position and vehicle are identified, in conjunction with objects that may be a safety hazard. This, in turn, yields an image of the stopping distance needed to brake the vehicle safely. This system helps compensate for the reactive shortcomings of a human driver while still allowing them to make the important decisions of how to get where they need to go.

The ultimate safety-decision-making lies with the car and not the remote driver. Given that the car uses its technology and perception capabilities to see oncoming risks before any human, it is able to stop in its place to avoid any collisions or accidents. ATAS is necessary for a remote driver to ensure the safety of those in an AV and those around it.

Does Remote Driving Require Teleoperation Support To Be Available 24/7?

Yes. It does require technical support to be available should a vehicle require remote driving from a teleoperator. However, it doesn’t mean that there is a teleoperator available at a 1:1 ratio. For 99% of the situations, autonomous technologies will be enough to drive the vehicle to safety. In the 1% of cases requiring remote driving, an operator must be available. The aimed ratio is to reach 5:1, or even 10:1.

Is Remote Driving The Same As Remote Assistance?

No. While they both fall under the same umbrella of being part of teleoperation, they’re pretty different.

Remote assistance is indirect control and is the preferred method of human intervention in AVs. A situation that may require remote assistance is if the autonomous software assesses a situation deems all paths are not acceptable. To overcome this, a teleoperator may assist by choosing the best path for the AV to take. If none of these are safe options due to obstacles, they may draw their own path on a tablet for the AV to follow. With remote assistance, the car is still driving autonomously, but with some added assistance, such as with path choice from a teleoperator if the software asks for help.

Remote driving is when a teleoperator intervenes directly with the AV, including steering, accelerating, and braking. For example, if a forklift needs to be operated manually via a teleoperator, this is possible via remote control of the joystick that controls the forklift’s forks. However, it’s only meant to be used as a last resort. Should the teleoperator come across issues, such as connections or just plain human error, ATAS is there to help prevent collisions by alerting the teleoperator, or by simply braking in its place to avoid an accident. If there is a danger zone ahead of the forklift, such as a deep hole that the teleoperator didn’t notice, ATAS will stop the vehicle to avoid damage to the vehicle.

One way to distinguish remote assistance and remote driving is that all vehicles that have teleoperation installed can be remotely assisted. However, not all teleoperated vehicles have remote driving capabilities. Likewise, all vehicles that have remote control capabilities can be remotely assisted and monitored as well.

Can Any Vehicle Be Remote Controlled?

In theory, yes. Any vehicle can be remote-controlled. However, the vehicles that currently use remote driving are not on public roads, with no public access. This is because teleoperation technology is not yet ready to be a regular part of AVs on public roads due to a general concern for safety and a lack of government legislation that supports AV usage on public roads.

But for all the AVs that use the entire span of teleoperation, that being monitoring, assistance, and driving, it’s easier to directly control vehicles in these situations when there is no public around. One such example where remote driving is helpful is in a remote location that’s dangerous for humans to go into, such as in a mining shaft or unstable building, but which requires a vehicle to go and carry out a specific function or job. Using remote driving for such a vehicle with no public around allows the vehicle to carry out the function via a teleoperator from a safe and remote location.

In the future, we might see a fleet of AVs capable of being remotely driven, such as with robotaxis and roboshuttles that drive on public roads and are with no driver inside. For now, the only remotely controlled vehicles allowed are on non-public roads until legislation and regulations change.

The Future of Remote Driving in Autonomous Vehicles

Today’s AVs operate on a complex marriage of cameras, LiDAR, radar, GPS, and direction sensors. Combined, these are expected to deliver an all-situation, all-weather answer empowering an AV to see all, anticipate everything, and guarantee a safe delivery to one’s destination.

Only They Don’t. And They Can’t. This is why government regulators are reluctant to clear AVs for prime time. There is just not enough data to ensure confidence in an AV’s ability to prevent damage, injury, and death. Understandably, consumer confidence is also just not there yet.

Yet knowing that a human is ready to help via remote driving is what will assuage the public fears, and eventually allow for legislation to pass for the increased use of AVs on the road.


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