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The Secret Technology Helping Driverless Cars: Remote Control

Wall Street Journal - Tim Higgins

[Phantom Auto] has signed partnerships with three companies—Transdev, one of the world’s largest public transportation providers; National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB, which acquired Saab Automobiles’ assets out of bankruptcy; and Swedish-based startup Einride—to use the technology in their autonomous vehicles. This month, Paris-based Transdev is running a trial in Rouen, France, to test driverless vehicles. “We can’t accept to have our vehicle blocked just because the advanced driving technology… doesn’t know how to manage a specific situation,” said Yann Leriche, chief executive of Transdev North America and head of autonomous transportation systems.


When Self-Driving Cars Can’t Help Themselves, Who Takes the Wheel?

New York Times - John Quain

While major technology and car companies are teaching cars to drive themselves, Phantom Auto is working on remote control systems, often referred to as teleoperation, that many see as a necessary safety feature for the autonomous cars of the future. And that future is closer than you might think: California will allow companies to test autonomous vehicles without a safety driver — as long as the car can be operated remotely — starting next month.


Why Self-Driving Car Companies Are Eyeing This Remote Driving Startup

Fortune - Kirsten Korosec

What is notable is that so many companies are at least considering using an additional safety backup—in this case Phantom Auto’s tech—once human test drivers are pulled from its autonomous vehicles.


Teleoperator of autonomous cars takes its first steps toward public trials

    CNBC - Phil LeBeau

    What happens when autonomous-drive cars have no safety driver? What are passengers supposed to do? Phantom Auto, a start-up in Mountain View, California, believes it has the answer. The company provides telepresence for autonomous-drive cars allowing a human to engage and operate the vehicle via remote control.


    Self-Driving Cars Have a Secret Weapon: Remote Control

    WIRED - Alex Davies

    [Phantom Auto] is showing off the type of remote-control capability that every major player in the nascent world of robotic driving will end up relying on...


    Phantom Auto Demonstrates First Remote-Controlled Car on Public Roads

    IEEE Spectrum - Mark Harris

    ‘An autonomous vehicle company might have a system that works 95 or even 99 percent of the time, but that last 1 percent is a very difficult piece of the puzzle to solve,’ says Phantom CEO Shai Magzimof. ‘We’re here to do that hardest part.’


    A helping hand for "confused" self-driving cars

    CBS This Morning

    California is one of at least five states that now allows self-driving cars to be on the road without a safety driver, if they have a system in place for a human to take over remotely. If you're wondering why an autonomous vehicle might need somebody like Ben: as self-driving technology advances -- we know that General Motors, for example, is going to build one without a steering wheel, gas pedals or brakes -- if there was a situation where the autonomous car had to stop and didn't know what to do, a passenger couldn't do anything to help. They would need somebody to intervene remotely.


    Phantom Auto will drive your autonomous car if it gets confused

    Engadget - Roberto Baldwin

    Phantom Auto will initially be a bridge between what autonomous services want to be and what they will be out of the gate. Then it'll be a backup for all the weird things that happen on the road that a computer can't initially figure out. It'll be decades before there are level 5 fully autonomous cars on the road that can handle any situation. Between now and then, it'll make that very long transition easier for people to swallow if they know that if things get weird, somewhere there's a trained driver behind the wheel of a computer ready to help you get you where you're going.


    Is remote control the answer to self-driving car safety?

    Detroit Free Press - Eric D. Lawrence

    “Everyone wants these vehicles on the road as soon as possible, but at the same time, lawmakers want to make sure that this testing and deployment is done in an optimally safe manner," Katz said. "If we were to deploy these and not have a remote operator, some sort of human in the loop, and there's some horrible accident, it doesn’t matter if that accident is caused by (any particular automaker), it pushes back the entire space and all the momentum that we’ve had going for the last number of years," Katz said. 


    Self-driving cars with 'remote' drivers could test on California roads in April

    Reuters / CNBC - Alexandria Sage

    "We think we have the ultimate backup system — which is a human," said Elliot Katz, co-founder of Phantom Auto, which last month at the CES technology conference demonstrated how cars driving in Las Vegas could be remotely controlled from Mountain View, California, over 500 miles away.


    A designated driver for the driverless car

    Automotive News - Katie Burke

    During a test ride around Phantom's Silicon Valley offices last week, the car was able to smoothly complete a drive around the block without any intervention on the driving controls in the car. And with a human behind the remote controls, the ride felt much more natural compared with the rigidly rule-following self-driving cars.


    Phantom Auto pioneers remote driving technology

    Roadshow by CNET - Emme Hall

    From inside the vehicle, the driving style is smooth -- inputs aren't jerky or rushed. That's because a human is essentially behind the wheel and the car behaved as such, crossing multiple lanes to make a left-hand turn and navigating the wild-west driving style of a crowded gas station.


    Look, ma, no driver! Cars without humans coming to California soon

    San Francisco Chronicle - Carolyn Said

    Car makers could contract out the remote-operator function to third parties, such as Mountain View’s Phantom Auto, which is developing remote-control centers for robot cars.


    Human Control of Self-Driving Cars on Policymakers’ Radar

    Bloomberg BNA - Michaela Ross

    States ‘want AVs deployed in as safe a manner as possible, and they’re starting to see that remote operation technology is a viable way to fulfill that goal,’ Elliot Katz, co-founder of Phantom Auto, told Bloomberg Law.


    Why Self-Driving Cars Will Require a 'God View' Eye in the Sky

    PC Mag - Doug Newcomb

    In the first demonstration of the technology on public roads, at CES a startup called Phantom Auto showed how a car on the Las Vegas Strip could be remotely controlled by a human operator who was 500 miles away in Mountain View, California.


    We Want the U.S. to Lead in Driverless Cars. Here’s What Washington Can Do to Help

    U.S. Chamber of Commerce - Jordan Crenshaw & Julie Stitzel 

    Some of the U.S. Chamber’s team got a chance to ride in a remotely-driven vehicle down Las Vegas Boulevard powered by Phantom Auto’s software, which enables a backup driver to take the wheel of the vehicle. In this case, our driver sat at a console in Mountain View, CA while we comfortably drove around the Las Vegas Strip. Since this was our first time in this kind of connected vehicle, we were incredibly impressed with the technological leaps connected and smart vehicles have made.


    DMV to give driverless cars the green light

    ABC News Bay Area - Jonathan Bloom

    [The CA DMV stated that] after a 30-day public posting period, companies could begin receiving permits on April 2 to operate with no one in the driver's seat -- as long as they use a remote control technology like the one made by Phantom Auto in Mountain View.


    Driverless cars can operate in California as early as April

    Recode - Johana Bhuiyan

    It’s a requirement that many industry experts agree could help accelerate the proliferation of self-driving cars and ensure cars are able to operate in all situations — especially the unsolved edge cases. That’s good news for companies like Phantom Auto, which aims to be the remote safety driver for autonomous cars. In the short term, Phantom Auto is trying to replace the human safety driver who, today, takes over control of an autonomous car when the system fails, or in situations when the driver expects it to fail.


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