“Drive from Work” remote driving services are now a thing

I’ve been following autonomous cars’ progress for many years, but it’s taking longer to bring the technology to market than expected. So some companies are now offering “Drive from Work” services where they hire drivers that sit in an office to remotely drive passengers around.

That seems insane, but that’s what Fetch does in the UK with their drivers remotely controlling cars from the head office using cellular network connectivity, 360-degree cameras, and a “workstation” with a steering wheel and pedals as well as four displays. It looks like a game, but this is real life…

Drive from Work services

The service is now only offered in Milton Keynes, UK, and has been trialed for 18 months so far. This could pave the for cheaper drivers based overseas, but I suppose the lag is an issue as is the potential loss of connection, so the Hackaday article that informed us of this option also points out that overseas remote drivers will likely be banned in the UK and legal framework will be develop for this type of services.

I can see so many problems with those “Drive form Work” services from technical issues (loss of connectivity, power issues…) and legal headaches (insurance, legal responsibility…) in case of an accident that I can’t believe it’s allowed even with local drivers. But the FAQ on the company website gives a clue why it’s been allowed so far:

Our vehicles are being remotely driven during delivery and return. You’ll notice that our cars have safety drivers that sit in the driver’s seat. These specialists are there to monitor our remote driving technology and share important feedback to help us improve the Fetch experience.

So at this time, you still have an employee from the company that sits in the driver’s seat to take control if anything goes wrong with the remote driver. The insurance part of the FAQ is interesting, as the customer is apparently liable for the first £500 (around $645 US) and the service can not be used for business use, although I’m not sure what that means in this context.

If you happen to be in Milton Keynes and want to give it a try you can download a mobile app for Android or iOS, and from there it looks very much like booking a Uber drive.

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8 Replies to ““Drive from Work” remote driving services are now a thing”

    1. I’d be interested to know of the latency response of the video/controls.
      It’s one thing to be flying in the air with hardly anything around you versus having a multitude of vehicles/people/animals/traffic signals all around.

      On a different note, I’m wondering if thought has been put into controls put in place to prevent GTA-style driving.
      I can only imagine it being a matter of time before something like that happens because the remote worker doesn’t care and won’t be directly affected like the vehicle occupant would.

      1. It is sad that humans have the free will to not care of other people. I wish we were partially programmed with Asimov’s rules.

    1. As I understand it, they have one employee in the office who will have his/her own transportation and one employee in the car who can drive back to the office.

  1. Vay has been doing this longer, and they’re authorized to operate vehicles without a safety driver (although possibly only without passengers – they drive the car empty to you, you drive where you’re going, then they drive it empty to the next customer), operating commercially in Germany, with more countries in Europe and the US in the works.

    As for loss of connectivity, I think they (Vay – I don’t know anything about Fetch) have some limited self-driving capability for the car to essentially find the nearest safe place to park itself until connectivity is restored.

    Full disclosure: I used to work for the company a few years back, handling unit testing and code coverage parts of the ISO 26262 compliance. Any information provided that isn’t backed by a link to official Vay documents is speculative, and isn’t based on any inside knowledge.

  2. If you have a driver in the drivers seat, then you have all that you need.

    It’s laughable and an embarrassment for the UK.

    1. It’s probably a temporary thing, and the ultimate goal is to only have the remote driver handling the car.

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