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Texas A&M University signs up for remote control of autonomous shuttles

Remote Assistance will be integrated into the Texas A&M shuttle autonomy system to authorise the vehicle to proceed at four-way intersections and stops.

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Designated Driver’s technology provides both remote driving and remote assistance
Designated Driver’s technology provides both remote driving and remote assistance

Texas A&M University in the US is incorporating teleoperation technology from Designated Driver into its autonomous shuttles to help improve vehicle and passenger safety.

 

This is the first commercial deployment on public roads for Designated Driver’s teleoperation system (enabling remote control of autonomous vehicles), and the company will remotely provide steering guidance to the shuttles operating in downtown Bryan, Texas.

 

Shuttle autonomy system

 

In the first phase of the deployment, Remote Assistance will be integrated into the Texas A&M shuttle autonomy system to authorise the shuttle to proceed at four-way intersections and stops.

 

Over time, it is intended that additional functionality will be added, including the ability to provide the shuttle’s autonomy system with alternative routes, when needed, enabling it to safely navigate around unanticipated obstacles, said Designated Driver.

 

“The Designated Driver system provides a powerful ‘safety net’ for our driverless shuttles,” said Dr Srikanth Saripalli, an associate professor in the J Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M, who has overseen the shuttle project since its inception in October 2018.

 

“Among our most important observations over the past six months, we found that four-way intersections and stops were the most common scenarios where our safety driver had to intervene. Designated Driver’s technology provides both remote driving and remote assistance – ideal for easily and safely guiding a vehicle through an intersection.”

 

Enabling remote control of vehicles in the event of obstructions, challenging road conditions and sensor malfunction or where operation is difficult or hazardous, Designated Driver said it offers both remote-driving and remote-assistance models for teleoperation.

“We are enabling Texas A&M to get the safety driver out of the driver’s seat by deploying a reliable teleoperation solution”

With remote driving, the teleoperator fully takes charge of the car, using the cameras and sensors in the vehicle to manoeuvre it.

 

However, in most real-world scenarios, the autonomy system is fully functional but simply unable to determine the safest path forward. In these situations – such as at the stops and intersections encountered by the Texas A&M autonomy system – Designated Driver will provide remote-assistance technology.

 

According to Designated Driver, while the technology will eventually replace the safety driver, the shuttles will continue to include a safety navigator who will provide support and educate the passengers on the technology.

 

The shuttles will be controlled and monitored by a dedicated teleoperations center at Texas A&M.

 

“We are enabling Texas A&M to get the safety driver out of the driver’s seat by deploying a reliable teleoperation solution,” added Manuela Papadopol, CEO, Designated Driver.

 

“This model lowers the barrier to entry for any company to provide safe autonomous solutions. We’re excited to help Texas A&M continue to expand its autonomous shuttle programme in other vehicles and cities and look forward to using this opportunity to further study the behaviour of teleoperators and provide the best user experience for all riders.”

 

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