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UK trial demonstrates how autonomy can help disabled drivers

Demonstration was successfully completed as part of the Greenwich Automated Transport Environment project

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The fortnight of testing featured an autonomous-enabled Toyota Prius
The fortnight of testing featured an autonomous-enabled Toyota Prius
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Many modern cars can be adapted so that they are driveable by a remote pilot

The technology is the product of more than two years’ research from Gobotix

Connectivity is provided by a machine-to-machine sim able to tap into any network

Drivers with reduced mobility have taken part in the UK’s first trial involving an autonomous vehicle which was parked with the assistance of a remote operator.

 

The demonstration of a teleoperated autonomous vehicle service aimed to show how near-market technology could benefit disabled and older drivers with limited mobility. Using an autonomous-enabled Toyota Prius, it was successfully completed as part of the GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment), led by TRL.

 

Using proof of concept technology developed by one of the project’s partners Gobotix, a wheelchair user drove himself to his final destination before disembarking. The driver then enlisted the support of a remote operator to park his vehicle using 3G and 4G cellular technology from telecommunications provider, O2.

 

For specific situations when cellular coverage would not be possible such as in an underground car park, the user can also control the vehicle using an app on their own tablet device to manoeuvre or park it from a short distance using in-car wi-fi.

 

“Everybody is waiting for the arrival of fully automated vehicles, but there’s a lot that vehicle manufacturers can be doing already with existing technology to help improve accessibility and mobility for older and disabled drivers,” said Dr Ben Davis, technical director, Gobotix.

 

“Many modern cars can be adapted so that they are driveable by a remote pilot and what we’ve demonstrated as part of GATEway is proof of that,” he continued. “By offering a remote teleoperation service, we can remove common concerns around boarding and alighting. It’s about empowering those with reduced mobility to retain independence through the use of technology.”

 

The technology is the product of more than two years’ research from Gobotix and works on many vehicles which have increasingly common electronic controls and sensors. Using forward facing sensors, the software interprets images and communicates with the vehicle’s systems to enable remote operation by a computer or smartphone. Connectivity is provided by a machine-to-machine sim that is able to tap into any network and works on 3G and 4G, while the video feed on the vehicle is used to facilitate obstacle detection and adjust speed accordingly.

 

“In the future, it is anticipated that the technology could be applied to fleets of fully automated vehicles, which could be controlled and operated from a remote control centre when necessary,” added Dr Davis. “With further investment, it might also prove useful for local authorities or transport planners looking to improve utilisation and efficiency of car parking in cities.”

 

The successful demonstration took place at the InterContinental Hotel in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and marked the end of a fortnight of testing.

 

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