How could the lowly electric Renault ZOE and Nissan Leaf from rental company Elmo Rent be allowed to drive without someone behind the wheel when today’s most advanced car – the very expensive Mercedes-Benz S-Class – still requires the driver to hold his car. eyes on the road and hands on the wheel when he leaves motorways with a central divider or when he exceeds 60 km/h?
The contradiction is only apparent. As much as Mercedes-Benz strives to automate driving to one day turn the driver into a simple passenger, Estonian company Elmo Rent works more humbly to simply control the car remotely. In other words, decisions are made by a human who remotely acts on the steering wheel, accelerator, brake and transmission. His movements printed in front of the computer are reproduced on the car’s control buttons, thanks to software developed internally at Elmo Rent. “We take advantage of the fact that the rules do not specify whether the driver must be in the vehicle,” emphasizes Enn Lannsoo, founder in 2013 of this Estonian sharing company. “So we put our driver in our premises in front of a computer screen.”
Remote driving already exists: it takes over when the self-driving car loses its bearings
The rental cars in Elmo Rent’s colors are therefore far from deserving of the qualification “autonomous car”. If the driver’s seat is actually empty for someone recording the time on certain trips at a reduced speed, a driver acts remotely on his order. Whereas in the future autonomous car at level 5, all decisions will be made by the artificial intelligence on board – very rarely by humans, who will only intervene from a distance to resolve a supposedly rare conflict situation.