The Future of Autonomous Vehicles: The Impact of COVID-19

04.24.2020 | Soliton Blog

asphalt road with speed stripe during covid id. article is about teleoperation

According to some predictions, we can expect driving tech to achieve full autonomy no sooner than the early 2030s. And this is quite a bit later than the more sanguine forecasts of just a few years ago. It seems that fully autonomous cars are not in our immediate future.

A major part of the problem is that developing driverless systems is hard…really, really hard. Even equipped with the most responsive sensors, and the most sophisticated machine-learning AI systems, training vehicles to operate safely in chaotic road conditions is no easy task.

But there is a system that works now —the remote driving system—which is helping speed the creation and adoption of driverless technology. With the onset of a new world post pandemic, COVID-19 might urge the autonomous vehicle adoption to occur, even sooner than expected.

Self-Driving Cars & Remote Driving Tech

When you think of autonomous cars, what comes to mind? You probably think of fully robotic vehicles, jammed with radars and adaptive AI programming. But this is where creating truly self-driving cars gets tricky. It may seem effortless for humans to respond to the split-second decisions that come with driving.

However, when you try to replicate that effortlessness in robotic systems, it becomes clear how difficult it is. And that is why autonomous driving tech has been frustratingly slow to actually materialize.

This brings us to the remotely controlled car. 

Remote driving systems are not strictly autonomous. They certainly don't make the cut according to SAE International's levels of driving automation. This is because the vehicles are remote controlled by a human operator. It may look and feel like an autonomous ride, but actually the driver is in a remote location…sometimes miles away.

Remote driving involves operating a vehicle through teleoperations and telematics systems. These systems are what enable a human "driver" to control all the vehicle's movements remotely.

How it works?

The operator sits before a bank of screens, which display images from the vehicle's cameras. The remote driver controls a steering wheel, gas pedals, and brakes, which engage their counterparts on the autonomous car.

With the adoption of powerful 5G networks, together with ultra-low latency video transmission, remote driving systems are only likely to become much more widespread, especially in a world with social distancing practices. All of the data is streaming in real time, in part because of powerful encoders like the Soliton Zao-SH.

How has COVID-19 Impacted the Future of Autonomous Vehicles?

The Coronavirus pandemic has distorted the world we are used to living in. Just like everything else in business and technology, priorities have changed in the world. The speed of adoption is not just being influenced by capital investment into research and development. Public Safety could be positively impacted in a remote driving environment, let alone the speed to reach 100% autonomous vehicles.

Covid-19 has already shifted priorities as the need for less contact and new social consciousness around personal exposure has changed. The projected revenue for autonomous vehicles industry, which includes remote driving is being revalued to nearly triple due to the impact of the pandemic. The global unmanned vehicle (incl. remote driven vehicles) market size was valued at USD 9.70 Billion in 2018, since Covid-19 is now projected to reach USD 27.40 Billion by 2026.

The Future of Autonomous Cars?

The beauty of remote driving systems is that they act as a kind of bridge between human driving and complete Level 5 autonomy. Remote driving can be used to complement autonomous systems by having a human driver ready to jump in and take over if necessary. For right now, remote driving Is also a good way to help people get used to robotic driving, here are examples of 3 cities using remote driven public technology in their public systems:

Helenski, Finland

Zurich, Switzerland

Manchester, England

And, for the time being, at least, keeping the human element in the mix is a good way to train for a future of 100% driverless systems. Right now, autonomous AI technology is in its infancy. It needs persistent human training and input—something that remote driving systems are primed to do.

So by keeping the drivers around (even remotely) for a bit longer, we might reach a driverless future just a little faster.

Innovative Remote Driving Systems With Soliton

It's 2020, and the future is right now. Soliton has pioneered innovative technologies since 1979. This includes innovating Remote Broadcasting & Teleoperation

If you're looking for the best remote driving tech on the market, you need look no further than Soliton's proven technology. If you'd like more information on how we can help you, please contact us today.