A startup wants “remote control” cars on 4G: our questions for Enn Laansoo, CEO of ELMO

Remote control cars using 4G, here’s an idea!

Estonian startup ELMO exists, however, it was founded in 2013 and uses Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoé remotely controlled by operators, to deliver vehicles to individuals -mainly for rental purposes, for example.

Each car has a 6 camera system that sends a video feed to the control station (equipped with a real driver), which sends control messages (steering, brake, accelerator, gear selection, etc.) to the car according to the driver’s instructions.

Everything works on 4G, wherever the network is available. You rent a car and it arrives at your house, with no pilot on board. Too good to be true ? ELMO would like to establish itself in France, but the legal framework is still unclear around the technology used. To learn more, we asked Enn Laansoo, CEO of ELMO, a few questions:

Mac4Ever: What is the current state of legislation in France and Europe to allow the use of these technologies?

Enn Laansoo, CEO of ELMO: For now, new regulations concerning autonomous vehicles have come into force. When it comes to remote control cars, technology has evolved faster than legislation. However, legislation is in the works and according to the information we have there will be working groups on this subject probably this fall, but we don’t have all the details at the moment.

At the European level, legislation is also changing rapidly as far as autonomous cars are concerned, but it is not yet fixed as far as remote-controlled cars are concerned.

● How can European/French legislation evolve around “remote control cars” in real use?

We believe that the ideal case is close cooperation between authorities and technology providers. In Estonia, we work hand in hand with the Estonian Transport Administration, providing the necessary technical information. Now, ELMO plans to start street testing in Estonia in August to put the first 20 remote-controlled electric cars into operation this year as we passed the learning site test.

A startup wants

As part of the street testing, we can already start providing short-term rental service with the first cars. By the end of 2022, a safety driver will also travel to the requested destination with the aim of ensuring safety, gaining street driving experience and helping to refine the uniqueness and technology of the remote control.

● Why use 4G and not 5G, which seems to have better latency?

We don’t use 5G because it’s not deployed everywherehowever, in the future, our service can be easily upgraded to 5G.

A startup wants

When it comes to latency, 4G is not an issue. Control messages and video signal are transmitted over 2 separate, redundant, low-latency 4G mobile data channels. According to our tests in France, Germany and Estonia, our latency today is around 50-200ms, which is enough to operate the car remotely.

Nonetheless, 5G will allow you to divide this latency time by 2. Also, the throughput of the communication channel will be better, which will increase the quality of the video stream.

● How remote problem situations are managed (accident, hardware failure, lost connection, etc.).

First, we would like to emphasize that the remote control function is only used between 2 rental services. This means that when the customer takes control of the car, the remote control function is deactivated, which means that there is no danger for the customer who rents the car.

A startup wants

Furthermore, the teleoperator is a trained driver which only focuses on driving, which is much safer than driving a car in normal situation.

If latency is too high or we lose connection, the car will automatically stop and an operator goes to the car to regain control.
We also work upstream to avoid these situations – for example, to avoid connection loss, we map connection problems in a city and avoid these routes.

• Is there an AI in the car, to allow it to park safely or manage a disconnect?

We are not currently integrating artificial intelligence into cars.but we see remote control technology as an intermediate step before AI implementation, because our service can be launched very quickly and collect valuable data from our customers.

A startup wants

We work with approved electric cars and if car manufacturers have integrated artificial intelligence functions, of course they will remain in the car. Today, new generation electric cars are already equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (such as automatic emergency braking, etc.) that we do not remove from the car.

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