Visio.M e-mobility project unveils remote control driving technology

July 29, 2013, Technical University Munich
Visio.M drives remotely controlled in front of the the faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Credit: Andreas Heddergott / TUM

Fully autonomous cars may still be the stuff of science fiction. Remote driving technology, however, may be much closer than we think. Scientists at the Technische Universität München believe that full-size remote control cars could be hitting the roads within the next five to ten years. So if your next rental car turns up to your door driverless, the chances are that the actual driver is sitting in the car rental headquarters.

Researchers at TUM's Institute of Automotive Technology have demonstrated that cars can be driven remotely and safely on . As part of their project, the engineers equipped the Visio.M electric car with six and enabled all functions to be activated via a central control panel. The video images are fed into a computer before being encoded and sent to the driver at the remote operator station via LTE.

The station resembles a driving simulator, equipped with a steering wheel, instrumentation panel and pedals. The operator views the road on three huge monitors that display images from up to five cameras facing to the front and to the sides. The cameras are positioned in the middle of the windscreen behind the rear view mirror. Another camera relays images from behind the car.

The force feedback steering wheel uses actuators to simulate driving forces and thus delivers an extremely realistic . The brakes are equally realistic – the pedal in the operator station reacts in the exact same way as the pedal in a car. In addition to the 360-degree view of the car's environment, the operator can also hear exactly what is going on inside the car thanks to Dolby 5.1 technology.

In many cities today, the LTE network has sufficient reach to deliver the bandwidth required to transmit , sound and control data from a car. In addition, are continuing to expand. These increases in capacity are flanked by the emergence of the next standard, H.265, which can compress images even more efficiently to just fifty percent of the sizes currently possible today. Even without these developments, the data could still be transmitted today via the much slower UMTS network as the delay here is well under half a second.

In the event of a bandwidth bottleneck or a sudden connection failure, the vehicle automatically brakes until it reaches a standstill. Despite the technical feasibility, however, there are still a number of legal hurdles to be overcome before this technology can be deployed on regular roads.

Nevertheless, researchers at TUM firmly believe that remote driving could become a reality in the next five to ten years. And the costs are not prohibitive. The remote control cameras and electronics do not cost more than many optional extras currently available. And there are more than enough situations in which this technology would be of value – ranging from car sharing schemes that deliver the vehicles to the customer's front door through parking services in city centers or services that remotely drive to the next charging tower.

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not rated yet Jul 29, 2013
Yes, yes, yes! Need an expert driver for only the trickiest part of your large industrial vehicle, just dial the "help line". Ultimately combined with automated driving a real driver can connect if a problem occurs.
not rated yet Jul 29, 2013
"Fully autonomous cars may still be the stuff of science fiction." -Meanwhile Google car continues to drive around without human remote assistance. Any one else tired of driving?
not rated yet Jul 30, 2013
Could be nice for taxi companies. Have the drivers in a secure location instead of having them exposed to the random nutcase. Also opens up new car design possibilities for less weight/increased efficiency as you can do away with the entire driver section (may need an 'emergency joystick' for getting it off the road in case of failure)
Also opens up the field for people with disabilities as drivers.

The connectivity issue and insta-braking is a bit worriesome, though (If the feed is not hackable then at the very least it may be jammable - which could be used for all sorts of mischief)

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