Top start for the remote-controlled rental car
How could rental company Elmo Rent’s Renault ZOE and Nissan Leaf electric cars drive without someone behind the wheel when today’s most advanced car – the very expensive Mercedes-Benz S-Class – still requires its driver to keep his eyes open the road and his hands on the wheel when he leaves the dual carriageways or exceeds 60 km/h?
The contradiction is only apparent. Because as much as Mercedes-Benz is striving to automate driving in order to one day make the driver a simple passenger, the Estonian company Elmo Rent is working more modestly on simply controlling the car remotely. In other words, decisions are made by a human remotely manipulating the steering wheel, accelerator, brakes and transmission. His gestures, printed in front of the computer, are reproduced on the car’s controls, thanks to software developed internally at Elmo Rent. “We take advantage of the fact that the regulations don’t dictate whether the driver has to sit in the vehicle,” points out Enn Lannsoo, founder of the Estonian carsharing company in 2013. “So we place our driver in front of a computer screen on our premises.”
Remote driving already exists: it takes over when the autonomous car loses its bearings
The rental cars in the colors of Elmo Rent therefore by no means deserve the title “autonomous car”. If the driver’s seat is practically empty during certain journeys at reduced speed, a driver acts remotely on his orders. Whereas in the future level 5 autonomous car, all decisions will be made by the onboard artificial intelligence – very rarely by humans, who will only intervene remotely to solve a supposedly rare conflict situation.
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