How to drive a vehicle or heavy machinery when you cannot be there

Category: Remote driving / Date: 15 April 2020

Remote driving is not to be confused with self-driving. In remote driving the vehicle is driven in the same way as normal by a human driver, it just happens to be in a car simulator some distance away. Self-driving is where the car decides for itself what it should do.

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Why should I use remote driving over self-driving?

Imagine situations in hazardous areas where special instructions are required that a machine cannot determine. Maybe a car needs to be manoeuvred around obstacles that its sensors cannot understand. Perhaps through a minefield, or maybe where there are external influences that a car would not know about such as an impending tsunami or avalanche that needs to determine how, where and when a vehicle needs to be routed. Because of the dangers involved, it could be too dangerous to put people in harm’s way, or vehicles have been dropped in a hazardous area that are not fit for humans that need to deliver and return goods. With recent Coronavirus situations, this is no longer the realm of sci-fi and movie scenarios. This could be applied to any vehicle, whether it be cars’, busses or heavy goods vehicles such as lorries and trucks.

Not only driving, the ability to operate remote heavy machinery remotely in the same manner can overcome having to put a human operator in the driving seat within a dangerous or hostile environment. For example, in a war zone where there are booby traps or potential snipers, or a bulldozer or excavator having to dig in biologically hazardous area, or an old military site where potential bombs are likely to be or have been discovered. Even excavating in an unstable landscape, a remote operator would be a better alternative than putting the driver’s life at risk.

Even where areas are not hazardous, remote operators can be used where there is a potential shortage of skilled operators. A single operator would not need to travel between different sites and could potentially do many jobs in one day from a single location. They would not need to travel between sites and lose time – only the machinery would need to be delivered.

What is the technology behind remote driving?

The one major overriding factor is safety. In order to facilitate remote driving cars or heavy machinery, the operator needs to have a real time view with almost no latency. Imagine a car pulling into a main road, the view the driver observes must be in real time, if there is even a one second delay and the car pulls out, a lot can happen in a second on main road, and the consequence could be catastrophic.

Soliton Systems, a Japanese manufacturer of live streaming solutions, has been working with a major automobile company in Japan to deliver a remote driving car vehicle that can be driven by a remote operator.

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