Driverless logistics is becoming a reality really fast. Fernride, the German-based innovation leader for driverless solutions, has successfully integrated a remote operation kit into a Terberg drive-by-wire AutoTUG™. The vehicle will be further tested in the UK in September.
Driving terminal tractors or even long haul trucks might well become an office job. Sebastian Freitag, Lead Vehicle Software Engineer at Fernride, explains that teleoperation technology can bridge the gap to fully autonomous driving when combining best of both worlds; todays AV- and sensor technology and the capabilities of a human (remote) driver. The drivers just don’t need to be inside the vehicle anymore but can fully control it remotely. “The most important factor is of course safety. Therefore, the first level is to work with supervised driving by means of remote operation called Tele-DRIVE. Same as in an arcade, the driver works from a remote office on a driver seat with a steering wheel, pedals and handles. But instead of windows and mirrors, he works with high definition screens that offer vision in each direction, based on a set of cameras on the vehicle.”
The Terberg AutoTUG™ Architecture allows third party vehicle automation companies to connect and control all relevant functions of the AutoTUG™ via an interface. A key component in the AutoTUG™ tractor is the Drive by Wire layer that Terberg provides in order for third party system control developers, to take over the control of the vehicle and integrate their application depending functions. The Terberg Drive by Wire is named one of the most advanced in the market according to developers in the autonomous industry.
Fernride added their teleoperation technology stack on the Terberg Drive by Wire system. A vehicle teleoperation module behind the driver seat contains the application software that exchanges real-time information from the mechanical parts as well as from the cameras on the tractor. Sebastian Freitag: “Same as with the screens, the cameras need to have the lowest possible latency and very high resolution. That again requires a powerful computer to process a lot of information really fast while keeping up an ultra reliable, low latency connectivity between operator and vehicle. The fun thing is that, for demonstration purposes, we have built all this high-tech into an old fire truck that serves as a mobile command room. At the UK test circuit, the Terberg prototype will be remotely controlled from this old fire truck and we can drive it remotely from our Munich based Teleoperation-center, too!”
Remote operation can accelerate the automation of more logistics use-cases, such as a container handling in ports or internal production supply on plant sites. These processes can step-by-step be automated with intervention of a teleoperator whenever a (semi-) autonomous truck faces an incident it cannot handle without human assistance (called tele-ASSIST). In this way, each assigned teleoperator can control multiple vehicles on-demand that only need assistance for specific jobs. Sebastian Freitag continues: “In a pilot phase we will have a safety driver in the truck, and the teleoperator can always stop the vehicle immediately by pushing a big red button. These are also installed on every side of the vehicle. As said before, safety comes first when it comes driverless solutions.”