Tele-driving: Arriving Now

Over the next few months, Ottopia will publish a series of posts on the nuances of tele-driving: market trends, technology, safety, and more. For more, follow this blog or follow us on LinkedIn

Consumers have wanted autonomous vehicles for years. In a 2015 survey, BCG found that most consumers would pay extra for a vehicle with autonomous driving capabilities. A 2023 McKinsey study found that of those who want autonomy, two-thirds would pay over $10,000. Over the years, products such as Tesla Autopilot as well as surveys have reinforced the point: consumers are willing to pay handsomely for autonomy.

Industry has pursued this massive opportunity by investing tens of billions of dollars into autonomy. While the technology has progressed tremendously in the past 5 years, one major gap remains: cities. The very few autonomy systems made for chaotic urban streets operate in very limited environments and rely on expensive sensors that price them out of the consumer vehicle market.

The difficulty of urban chaos has pushed most autonomous driving projects to one of two domains: either autonomous highway driving, or tech to better support human drivers instead of replacing them. This market shift poses a question: In the next decade, will consumers experience urban autonomy in their own cars?

The answer is yes—but with tele-driving in place of autonomy.

Tele-driving: coming soon to your car

Most new cars today already have multiple cameras, computing units, and internet connections on board. This proliferation of in-vehicle technology unlocks new possibilities: dedicated software maximizes these hardware components to enable safe tele-driving.

Tele-driving is now emerging from the shadow of autonomy. Originally deployed as a backup to autonomy, tele-driving can now stand on its own. BMW is working on tele-parking and additional tele-driving services. Ottopia is working with multiple carmakers and truck makers to embed tele-driving in new vehicles. Companies such as Vay, Halo, and Imperium Drive have taken a different approach, retrofitting vehicles for rental services in which a tele-driver brings the car to you.

Regulators have started to support tele-driving as well. Louisiana, Alabama, Nevada, and Florida all allow tele-driving if the service operator can show an approved safety case and follow regular traffic laws. The UK Law Commission completed a major study last year, offering detailed short- and long-term regulatory recommendations now making their way through government. As the existing services grow, regulatory frameworks will evolve to encourage tele-driving.

Tele-driving technology has arrived

You are probably wondering whether public cellular networks can ever deliver the low latency and high reliability needed for tele-driving. It turns out that advanced communications techniques such as network bonding and dynamic streaming get the most out of cellular networks to enable safe tele-driving. These techniques use multiple networks for redundancy and decide in real time how to optimize data transmission over the networks.  

Furthermore, the vehicle hardware requirements are likely not as demanding as you may expect. While the 5GAA has estimated that tele-driving requires a 35 Mbps uplink, Ottopia data shows that an uplink of 10 Mbps is more than enough for tele-driving. Similarly, while a self-driving autonomy system requires a supercomputer and multiple expensive sensors in the vehicle, tele-driving software can run on the kind of hardware already built into your car. 

Tele-driving software must include additional capabilities. For example, the tele-driving station must have an intuitive user interface that feels like a driver’s seat. Similarly, while studies show that trained tele-drivers face fewer distractions and therefore respond faster than the average driver, the tele-driving system must ensure that the tele-driver remains engaged and alert.

Divide and conquer: tele-driving with autonomy

For highway driving, autonomy technology is already starting to deliver on its promise. In the past few months, multiple carmakers launched highway self-driving systems.

For city streets, tele-driving will deliver the benefits of autonomy. Consumers want the convenience of someone else driving when they need it, regardless of an AI driver or a human driver.  

By offering both urban tele-driving and autonomous highway driving, carmakers can deliver on the promise of autonomy—without another decade of waiting, and without prohibitively expensive hardware.  Within the next three years, the current trickle of tele-driving services will turn into a flood. 

Interested in exploring tele-driving for your vehicle or fleet? Talk to an Ottopia expert today.

Sources:

  • McKinsey & Co, Autonomous driving’s future: Convenient and connected, January 2023
  • Boston Consulting Group, Revolution in the Driver’s Seat: The Road to Autonomous Vehicles, April 2015
  • The Globe and Mail, From remote driving to a mixed reality video game, BMW shows off its latest technology, December 2023