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Phantom Auto Helps Self-driving Cars Get Out of Tricky Situations on the Road

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【Summary】Phantom Auto’s services are designed for two percent of autonomous driving maneuvers on the road, which are considered to be the most complex.

Michael Cheng    Jun 14, 2018 9:00 AM PT
Phantom Auto Helps Self-driving Cars Get Out of Tricky Situations on the Road
author: Michael Cheng   

During testing, when developers of autonomous vehicles encounter a tricky situation, they perform manual intervention to rectify the issue. Such protocols are viable for pilot programs, but what about in live environments with real passengers?

According to autonomous car startup Phantom Auto, a network of remote, human tele-operators might be the solution. This type of service is suitable for self-driving cars, as the units are not equipped with a steering wheel or pedals for breaking and acceleration.

Phone a Friend for Assistance

At the moment, there are five states (in the US), including California, that allows such remote systems to support driverless cars without a safety driver behind the wheel. Phantom Auto's services are designed for two percent of autonomous driving maneuvers on the road, which are considered to be the most complex.

Such ‘black swan' encounters are random and cannot be anticipated by the vehicle. Examples of potential events requiring help from a human tele-operator includes: fallen trees, the sudden emergence of sinkholes, holographic advertising boards, construction zones and more.

"It is vitally important that lifesaving AVs are deployed rapidly and at scale, but it is imperative that the deployment is optimally safe and secure," said Shai Magzimof, Phantom Auto CEO.

"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."

The system requires self-driving cars being monitored to be equipped with four wireless modems, a compact computer and onboard cameras. At the other end of the network, the tele-operator uses a large screen, physical steering wheel and pedals to guide the car to safety. The operator pushes control back to the vehicle after intervention.

Although reliable, the technology isn't applicable to preventing collisions in real-time. Before summoning a remote tele-operator for assistance, the self-driving car must come to a full stop.

In a demonstration at CES 2018, the company was able to take control an autonomous vehicle remotely. Impressively, the human operator was located in Mountain View, California, while the car was located in Las Vegas.

Teleoperation Safety Partnerships

There are several groups interested in Phantom Auto's services. The startup partnered with Transdev, a France-based mobility services provider, and Einride for research projects. Furthermore, it also tapped Karamba Security and Argus Cyber Security to ensure its remote system is secure. The latter cybersecurity firm has integrated protective mechanisms (Argus Connectivity Protection) with Phantom Auto's remote network, enabling it to mitigate and contain attacks against the system.

"As the automotive ecosystem includes more and more technologies to enable connected and automated vehicles, the need for a multi-layered, holistic cybersecurity solution becomes absolutely imperative," said Yoni Heilbronn, Argus Cyber Security Chief Marketing Officer.

Phantom Auto's services are set be fully operational before L5 driverless cars hit public roads. Magzimof clarified that the technology already works and does not rely on the availability of 5G networks. Other automotive groups pursuing remote tele-operator solutions for autonomous cars include Daimler, Bosch and Nissan.

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