Virtual Designated Driver Doesn’t Need to be in the Car to Drive

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The days of human drivers may be numbered once fully autonomous vehicles hit the road, but we aren’t there just yet. The technology is making its way into our cars, but this is a process that will take time. One step in the process could be virtual drivers.

Designated Driver, based out of Portland, Oregon, has developed technology that lets a human driver pilot a vehicle remotely. If you think this sounds sketchy, how about proof that it works in the form of a video where Drift Champion Vaughn Gittin, Jr. drives one of these vehicles?

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This car doesn’t look like other cars, notably for having a wrap that covers not just the usual parts but also the windows. This makes it a somewhat disconcerting experience for Gittin, who takes a ride in the car before he attempts to drive it from afar.

The system uses a Samsung Galazy S10 5G and a Samsung VR headset enabled by Vodafone’s 5G network. Gittin shows what’s happening inside as the car is driven remotely. The wheel spins and, as Gittin puts it, they don’t hit anything so that’s always a win.

Next up is to let Gittin have a go at the system. It looks for all the world like he’s sitting down to play a video game rather than drive an actual car complete with steering wheel and pedals. On the other end of these controls, however, is a real car.

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Unlike his test drive as a passenger, Gittin takes a somewhat more aggressive approach to the experience. This includes a healthy number of donuts and, of course, drifting.

This virtual reality drive, which took place at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, shows off just how well the car is controlled without a driver at the wheel. There’s no delay that causes him to lose control and no adjustments to make sure his movements are timed to make the car do exactly what he wants when he wants.

While Gittin was just a few miles away from the car for the test, the designated driver doesn’t need to be that close. It’s been tested at a distance of 5,000 miles, so it’s truly a system that could be applied from anywhere.

Check out the video and tell us what you think. How comfortable are you with riding in a car whose driver could be miles away?