Teleoperation of Autonomous Vehicles by Designated Drivers Partners with AutonomouStuff

Designated Driver, a Portland, OR-based company, today announced a solution for the safe, secure and reliable teleoperation of autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles. Enabling remote control of vehicles in the event of obstructions, challenging road conditions, sensor malfunction or where operation is difficult or hazardous, Designated Driver is committed to the highest standards of automotive functional safety and is the industry’s first startup to offer to car makers both direct and indirect approaches for teleoperation.

The company also announced its first customer, AutonomouStuff, a Hexagon company, the world leader in supplying research-and-development platforms, products, software and engineering services for the advancement of robotics and autonomy systems. Designated Driver’s customizable teleoperation kit is available on the AutonomouStuff website, starting today, available for vehicles with an automation level 2 and up, as well as vertical market applications such as agriculture and mining. AutonomouStuff will be also be distributing and integrating Designated Driver into its platforms for autonomous vehicle development.

Designated Driver is demonstrating its solution in a test vehicle during the NVIDIA GTC, taking place this week in San Jose, CA.

Most major autonomous vehicle players are either preparing for teleoperation of their vehicles or testing it already. Some states—California among them—already require remote operation for the testing of driverless vehicles.

“The market need for Designated Driver is truly significant as it will help facilitate adoption of autonomous vehicles,” said Bobby Hambrick, founder and CEO, AutonomouStuff. “Remote control provides riders with the assurance that they will arrive at their destination even if there is a technical issue with their autonomous vehicle, and we see it as required functionality for all self-driving vehicles. With Designated Driver’s depth of expertise and focus on functional safety, its solution is superior.”

Designated Driver is the only solution offering both direct and indirect (assisted) models for teleoperation. Other remote-control solutions only enable the direct model, with the teleoperator fully taking 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, Designated Driver provides indirect human assistance. This approach is expected to comprise a significant portion of the service, and requires a very brief teleoperator engagement. With the indirect model, teleoperators are able to model a path for a vehicle “offline” so the vehicle can navigate safely, without any direct human intervention. Examples of such scenarios include a crowded construction site or a temporary roadblock.

The Designated Driver team is actively researching and developing a remote operation center console customized to the unique needs of teleoperators.

“In addition to addressing the critical and non-negotiable issues of latency and safety, our product has been designed to be easy to deploy and use, enabling the best user interaction and experience for both passengers and teleoperators. Measuring and understanding the behavior of teleoperators is not trivial and has been built into the product roadmap from day one,” said Manuela Papadopol, CEO, Designated Driver. “We have designed Designated Driver to be best in class, and are especially proud to be working with AutonomouStuff, which provides automakers and suppliers the most cutting-edge solutions for robotics and autonomy.”

Designated Driver is led by executives with decades of experience in complex automotive technology. Papadopol and CTO Walter Sullivan both worked at Microsoft’s automotive division and embedded automotive software leader Elektrobit in support of BMW, Daimler, Ford and VW Group, among others. Their team is comprised of automotive experts with deep expertise in embedded, autonomous and robotic systems, and certified as functional safety specialists.

About Designated Driver
Designated Driver offers seamless teleoperation of autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles, ensuring safety in the event of obstructions, challenging terrain or vehicle malfunction. It is the only company offering both direct and indirect approaches to the remote control of vehicles. Led by an executive team with decades of experience in automotive technologies, Designated Driver is committed to producing products adhering to the highest levels of functional safety.