Self-driving vehicles that encounter tricky scenarios may soon have more options for determining how to proceed.
Visteon, a supplier of cockpit electronics, is working with startup Designated Driver to add remote-control capabilities to its autonomous-driving platform.
Via remote connections, remote human monitors could either send vehicles instructions on how to navigate, or in some cases, control cars themselves and steer them through complex scenarios the cars cannot handle on their own.
The companies said Monday that they have been working together in recent months to integrate remote-driving technology on Visteon’s Drive Core platform, which is designed to enable advanced driver-assist functions today and be a scalable building block for higher levels of autonomy in the future.
Along with valet parking and autonomous highway pilots, remote driver, also called teleoperation, is one of several advanced features Visteon is building on top of the open platform.
Testing with Designated Driver will begin now in Germany, with more tests to follow in southeast Michigan.
“We’re enabling our partners with a tool set to build and develop on,” said Markus Schupfner, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Visteon. “We’re looking at how we can reuse some things and over time and in the future, like what happens when a designated driver takes over. We can use this as a reference.”
Though it’s too early to say when remote-driving capabilities might reach production, this is one step in that direction.
Remote-driving capability is increasingly viewed as a necessary competence for any self-driving system. Last month, for example, Aurora Innovation said it was developing its own “teleassist” to allow trained specialists to monitor vehicles and provide them with “high-level guidance when needed.”
Designated Driver is one of a handful of startups developing a remote driver.
Founded in 2018, the company has participated in AutonomouStuff’s open autonomy pilot program and integrated its technology into research vehicles. In a project last summer, Designated Driver conducted remote trans-Atlantic operations, controlling a car in England operating on a closed course from its Portland, Ore., headquarters.
A partnership with an established supplier will help Designated Driver differentiate itself from competitors, said CEO Manuela Papadopol.
“For us, the focus is on safety,” she said. “That’s very difficult, and developing that safety net with a partner who knows ASIL-D, the highest standard in automotive, is something that’s going to help us bring it to production.”
While much of the focus is on providing teleoperations for autonomous vehicles that operate on public roads, Designated Driver says that’s only one potential market for the technology. Others include traditional, non-autonomous vehicles, agricultural vehicles and warehouse robots.
“In a lot of those cases, even sidewalk robots, where the autonomy systems are simpler, when it fails you just need somebody to take over the vehicle and move it to wherever you want it to stop to be recovered,” said Walter Sullivan, chief technology officer at Designated Driver. “For anyone that’s pursuing automation in a serious way, they’ve already accepted that teleoperations is required to get better automation.”