Texas A&M University is adding technology, which allows remote-controlled guidance of its autonomous shuttles in the event there is a problem. This is the first commercial deployment on public roads for the teleoperation system developed by Portland, Ore.-based company, Designated Driver.
In the first phase of the deployment, Designated Driver's Remote Assistance will be integrated into the Texas A&M shuttle autonomy system to authorize the shuttle to proceed at four-way intersections and stops. Over time, 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.
"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," 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.
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 offers both remote-driving and remote-assistance models for teleoperation. With remote driving, the teleoperator fully takes charge of the car, using the cameras and sensors in the vehicle to maneuver 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 provides remote-assistance technology.
While Designated Driver 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.