The remote operator takes over when the AV is stumped.

Take the Wheel

Even today's most advanced autonomous vehicles (AVs) can't navigate roads with the same ease as human drivers. Sure, they might do fine on a long stretch of highway, but the vehicles often falter in the face of inclement weather, unpredictable pedestrians, or even birds and shadows.

Now, Oregon-based startup Designated Driver has created a system, according to Wired, that allows certified human drivers to take remote control of an AV if it malfunctions or encounters a tricky situation — meaning we might not have to wait for developers to perfect driverless technology before we can start riding in relatively safe AVs.

Triple Threat

Designated Driver's teleoperations system comprises three parts, according to the company's website.

The first is an in-vehicle hardware and software kit that attaches to the vehicle.

The second is a driver station hardware and software kit. This consists of a series of six screens that display feeds from the AV's cameras, as well as all the hardware a remote driver needs to control the vehicle, including a steering wheel.

The third is the certified teleoperators themselves, which Designated Driver can provide as a service.

Healthy Competition

Right now, Designated Driver has just one customer — robotics and autonomous tech supplier AutonomouStuff — but the company's CEO Manuela Papadopol and CTO Walter Sullivan told Wired it hopes to secure 20 percent of the teleoperations market in the next few years.

That might be a challenge considering the startup already has significant competition in the teleoperations space — everyone from Waymo to General Motors to Uber is working on their own systems.

But whether Designated Driver meets its market share goal or not, it's not hard to imagine AV teleoperator being one of the fastest growing occupations of the future.


More on self-driving cars: Exclusive: A Waymo One Rider’s Experiences Highlight Autonomous Rideshare’s Shortcomings

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