Teleoperations is a little discussed but vital element of putting self-driving tech into the world. The serious players in this space aren’t about to let their robots into the world without the ability to drive, or at least direct them from afar. Waymo, General Motors’ Cruise, Nutonomy, Zoox, Drive.ai, Uber, and Nissan are all quietly developing teleoperation systems. California law says vehicles without drivers inside them must allow for remote control. Florida, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington are considering similar rules. US senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) has said he wants similar language in AV Start, the would-be federal law governing self-driving tech that has been languishing in Congress for nearly two years.
The actual setup for the remote driver will evolve, but for now Designated Driver is using a bank of six screens that display the feeds from various cameras on the car and a map of the area.
Designated Driver sees a market there. Autonomy is a vast space, including ride-hail cars, trucks, shuttles, tractors, mining equipment, sidewalk robots, and more. Surely not every company will have the time, resources, or patience to develop their own remote control system. That makes them potential customers. “We’re still struggling with voice control, right?” says CEO Manuela Papadopol. “The reality is that communication is a challenge.”