If the rental car drives up to the customer's home just minutes after he completed the reservation and there is no driver, it could be a case of autonomous driving. But even more probable is that there actually is a driver - but he sits in the car rental office and controls the vehicle remotely. While autonomous driving is still a matter of the more distant future, remotely controlled vehicles could become a standard service within five to ten years, researchers of the Munich Technical University (TUM) believe.
In the project Visio.M, scientists from the TUM's Chair of Vehicle Technology demonstrated that tele-operated works safely in public road traffic. They equipped the Visio.M test car - a battery-electric vehicle, by the way - with six video cameras and visualized all relevant functions on a central control device. The video signals are aggregated in a car-based computer and transmitted through secure LTE connection to the operator's working place.
Fig. 1: The driver sits in front of an array of screens and controls - much like in a vehicle simulator.
There, the driver sits in front of three large monitors and a steering wheel, a dashboard and pedals - much like in a driving simulator. The screens show the images captured of up to five forward and sideward looking cameras. An additional rear-looking camera captures what would appear in the rear view mirror. The steering wheel is equipped with a force feedback mechanism, which provides a very realistic feeling. Likewise, stepping onto the brake provides a realistic haptic effect. Besides the all-round visibility, the operator's working place also provides the sound from the interior of the vehicle in a spatially correct reproduction, generated with a Dolby 5.1 equipment.
In many cities, the 4G mobile radio network coverage is good enough to provide the bandwidth necessary for the transmission of video images, sound and control data required to remotely control a vehicle. The