Remote Operation Policy: California and Federal

This research investigates the policy framework associated with remote operators, and remote operation. To define these terms, first a remote operator is quite obviously a specially trained person. This person is a requirement of securing an AV testing permit in California, and State statute requires that manufacturers deliver training to individuals serving as remote operators.

The state of California defines a “remote operator” as follows, “Remote Operator” is a natural person who: possesses the proper class of license for the type of test vehicle being operated; is not seated in the driver’s seat of the vehicle; engages and monitors the autonomous vehicle; is able to communicate with occupants in the vehicle through a communication link. A remote operator may also have the ability to perform the dynamic driving task for the vehicle or cause the vehicle to achieve a minimal risk condition. [CA Veh Code. Title 13, Division 1, Chapter 1 Article 3.7 § 227.02 (n)– Testing of Autonomous Vehicles]

The remote operator also can means a two-way communication link between the vehicle and central hub, and for developers to track the vehicle’s location and status. While permit applicants must also identify how remote operators will interact with law enforcement, the details of the “two-way communication link” are not specified and speaks to a lack of State understanding of the capabilities and limitations of remote operation. Industry standards organizations for remote operations (e.g SAE J3016) have also weighed in on teleoperators (e.g SAE J3016), and defined a remote driver as an individual who can operate the vehicle while not inside the vehicle. The British Standards Institute, by way of the British Centre for Connected Vehicles, also has issued guidance for remote operators, focusing on the ability of a remote operator’s ability to bring a CAV to a full stop, after an ADS disengagement. (Kettwich 2021

California has not defined remote operation, or teleoperation. It’s possible this definition may fall outside of state purview (states are responsible for licensure but not vehicle design) and fall instead to the National Highway Traffic Safety Authority (NHTSA) to define.  Teleoperation lacks clear standards for ensuring  that it serves as a safety backstop. Each AV developer has bespoke teleoperation specifications that match to different ODDs, so likely rather than a set technical requirement a set of performance requirements will emerge.

Research is necessary to identify what cloud computing requirements could set a baseline for ensuring that remote operation can occur during and prior to collisions in AV operation. Standards  to measure and validate the performance and safety of vehicle teleoperation may improve safety outcomes. This project aims to investigate limitations on network service, which is a crucial part of vehicle teleoperation, and other advanced automated driving functions such as cooperative driving. Real-time communication has  stringent requirements in terms of latency. In general, meeting the ultra-low latency requirements is very challenging in wireless networks, and supporting remote driving is an important goal of 5G systems that are being commercially deployed worldwide.