Amazon-Backed Aurora Prepared An Air-Traffic Control System for Self-Driving Cars
Thu, September 29, 2022

Amazon-Backed Aurora Prepared An Air-Traffic Control System for Self-Driving Cars

Companies are developing multiple layers of safety for self-driving cars / Photo Credit: metamorworks (via Shutterstock)


Self-driving cars are not ready to be deployed commercially at a large scale, but companies are developing multiple layers of safety thanks to technological advances, said Alan Ohnsman of business news source Forbes. Aurora, a startup that considers Amazon as its investor, believes a system of remote monitors akin to air-traffic controllers is one way to help guarantee public acceptance of its robotic chauffeurs. 

Aurora is founded by three autonomous tech veterans from Google, Tesla, and Uber. They are currently investing in a system called “teleassist” as it works to finetune the software, sensors, computers, and vision system that enables its test fleets in the Bay Area and Pittsburgh to handle various road conditions.  

Trained technicians at remote facilities access a vehicle’s sensors when needed and provide suggestions and guidance for unusual developments. With that, Aurora vehicles would safely pull over to the side of the road “when making such calls for advice.” The system notifies remote teleassist personnel when the need arises either because a driver or a user of the vehicle in a logistics network has requested it or if the vehicle has called for assistance, cofounder and chief product officer Sterling Anderson explained. However, the advice provided by the personnel “cannot be part of the functional safety for the vehicle.”

Anderson did not provide details for how much the firm is investing in the monitoring system, when its teleassist facilities open, or when it would be launched. Anderson noted that cellular network signals and “situational awareness” difficulties for remote personnel, as well as comprehending all the critical circumstances a car is facing, create too many challenges to safely take over the vehicle. He added, “Our approach to self-driving is safely, quickly, broadly. And if we want to get in market and make a difference sooner, we can do that safely if we introduce a system like this.” 

Chances are, Aurora’s system will behave “just fine in certain situations.” However, until the company has proven that it can do so safely and backed with a strong statistical argument, Aurora would have to take the conservative path.