Car-sharing cars that pick you up where you are

An Estonian start-up will test a concept of real remote-controlled cars. Purpose: to make car -sharing vehicles available wherever the customer is.

A car with no driver but not independent for all that … this is the technology with which Elmo works. This Estonian start-up has unveiled a prototype car-sharing car that can be driven remotely.

Connected to 4G using the control station, an operator sitting in a gaming chair, hands on the steering wheel and feet on a pedal, driving remotely while looking at the road and any obstacles from a screen roughly the same size as a windshield.

It is from this driving position, which looks like a video game station, that the driver can drive the vehicle remotely.
It is from this driving position, which looks like a video game station, that the driver can drive the vehicle remotely. © Elmo

Cameras, a 4G connection, a gaming steering wheel

A series of cameras are installed in the vehicle to capture the surroundings, images are broadcast on the driver’s screen which Elmo calls the supervisor. Vehicle position and remote driving are connected to 4G. The steering equipment developed by Elmo is similar in that the steering wheel of a vehicle reproduces the action of the supervisor in the one in his hands, by electrical impulses. Same for the pedals.

Elmo promised not to put too many additional sensors in each vehicle, so as not to contaminate the driving position for the customer. The remote control will also be disconnected once the user receives the car. And what if the connection is severed? The Estonian start-up ensures that the vehicle stops after five seconds.

“To optimize the delivery process, we developed technology that relies on a remote-controlled vehicle, you order the car in your application and it comes to you without a physical driver in the car, explains Kristiina Kalda, Director “France Elmo. It was driven remotely by our teleoperator, who was really a natural man”.

Therefore, the car does not strictly speak of an autonomous car, even if it does not have a driver.

The steering wheel allows the operator to drive Elmo’s car remotely.
The steering wheel allows the operator to drive Elmo’s car remotely. © Elmo

In the very first tests to be launched in July in Estonia, a supervisor was present in the cockpit of the prototypes to ensure safety. But if the tests go well, the deployment of this solution can go very fast.

“We have done a lot of testing in two years, but we will launch the service in Estonia in a few weeks, in the month of June, the idea is not to develop a technology for a technology but to understand the needs of customers and to get to know them “, continued Kristiina Kalda.

Regulations on the writing process

And current regulations don’t seem to be an obstacle. “The car is not independent. For autonomous cars, there are a number of texts that are outlined. In Estonia we are working with the authorities to give them all our data so that the authorities can keep it in the regulations , explains Kristiina Kalda. “And we believe this will happen in many countries”.

Elmo will launch tests to drive his vehicles remotely.
Elmo will launch tests to drive his vehicles remotely. © Elmo

Thanks to this technology, Elmo wants to automate a mode of operation that it already applies in Estonia, to its car-sharing system for electric cars. Once reserved through the application, the customer will locate the vehicle below his home or at the selected location, by the driver who delivers him.

“Within a year, we were delivering vehicles to our customers because we knew that one of the barriers to car sharing was the fact that the customer had to pick up the vehicle, for example at a parking point. “If the customer wants, we will deliver the car to their door”.

Elmo is very optimistic about the commercial development of its technology. “If we are sure of safety, we can do without the driver for example a month after the start of the tests”, explains Kristiina Kalda.

Pauline Ducamp

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