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GATEway demonstrates how teleoperation and autonomy can improve mobility for disabled drivers

by david.nunes

GATEway demonstrates how teleoperation and autonomy can improve mobility for disabled drivers


Greenwich, UK, 04 January 2017 – TheUK’s first demonstration of a teleoperated autonomous vehicle service for people with reduced mobility has been successfully completed as part ofthe GATEway project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment), led by TRL.

Taking place at the InterContinental Hotel in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and completed using an autonomous-enabled Toyota Prius, the demonstration marked the end of a fortnight of testing in which GATEway partners Gobotix and O2 were able to successfully demonstrate remote operation of an unmanned vehicle.  

The demonstration aimed to show how near-market technology could benefit disabled and older drivers with limited mobility.  Using proof of concept technology developed by Gobotix, a wheelchair user drove himself to his final destination before disembarking. The driver then enlisted the support of a remote operator to park his vehicle using 3G and 4G cellular technology from telecommunications provider, O2. For specific situations when cellular coverage would not be possible, e.g. underground car park, the user can also control the vehicle using an app on their own tablet device to manoeuvre or park it from a short distance using in-car Wi-Fi.

Automated vehicle technology has the potential to enhance mobility for people with additional travel needs, including those who are older or have disabilities.  But with  fully automated, all-weather vehicles not expected to operate on UK roads for a number of years, Gobotix is focusing on what can be done now to drive more immediate benefits.

“Everybody is waiting for the arrival of fully automated vehicles, but there’s a lot that vehicle manufacturers can be doing already with existing technology to help improve accessibility and mobility for older and disabled drivers, ” said Dr Ben Davis, Technical Director, Gobotix.

Many modern cars can be adapted so that they are driveable by a remote pilot and what we’ve demonstrated as part of GATEway is proof of that.  By offering a remote teleoperation service, we can remove common concerns around boarding and alighting. It’s about empowering those with reduced mobility to retain independence through the use of technology. ”

Toby Veall, Disability Consultant and full time wheelchair user following a spinal cord injury, who took part in the demonstration commented: “It’s very difficult for able-bodied people to fully understand the challenges facing disabled drivers. One of the main problems is finding suitable parking, which ideally is a disabled space but is not always possible.

“Other challenges include cars parking too close preventing access to the driver’s door, uneven surfaces like gravel or grass and hazards such as steep curbs, slopes and cambers. The use of a simple app to remotely park the car would be warmly welcomed by myself and many others with mobility problems and help to remove parking anxieties and improve independence.” 

The technology is the product of more than two years’ work from experts at Gobotix and works on many vehicles which have increasingly common electronic controls and sensors. Using forward facing sensors, the software interprets images and communicates with the vehicle’s systems to enable remote operation by a computer or smartphone. Connectivity is provided by a machine-to-machine sim that is able to tap into any network and works on 3G and 4G, while the video feed on the vehicle is used to facilitate obstacle detection and adjust speed accordingly.

The system is the first of its kind solution for remote teleoperation and, unlike most autonomous technologies, will enable cars to be driven semi-autonomously in areas that have not been mapped.  It also enables remote recovery of fully automated vehicles should something go wrong, such as software faults or sensor breakdowns. Using the technology a human operator can intervene to remotely navigate vehicles back to a safe location or state of operation.

Dr Davis concludes:  “In the future, it is anticipated that the technology could be applied to fleets of fully automated vehicles, which could be controlled and operated from a remote control centre when necessary. With further investment, it might also prove useful for local authorities or transport planners looking to improve utilisation and efficiency of car parking in cities. We could make buildings and cities even more accessible beyond just having dedicated disabled spaces.”

Commenting on the success of the pilot, Billy D’Arcy Managing Director, Enterprise & Public Sector Business O2 said: “O2 continues to focus on putting customer experience and satisfaction at the heart of everything we do when offering mobile products and services, all to help make customers’ lives easier. The GATEway project is a perfect example of this and we’re pleased to be supporting it by providing connectivity and counsel for the pilot. What we’ve shown at Greenwich is how connecting key services via the O2 network and an app on mobile devices, can offer huge mobility benefits to many.”

The demonstration is one of a number of trials taking place in the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab as part of the GATEway project. Other trials include automated passenger shuttles, automated urban deliveries and  high-fidelity simulator tests to investigate how drivers of regular vehicles respond and adapt their behaviour to the presence of automated vehicles on the roads.

The GATEway project is a world-leading two-year research programme, led by TRL and jointly funded by government and industry. It builds on fifty years of research into automated vehicles by TRL and aims to investigate the use, perception and acceptance of automated vehicles for ‘last mile’ mobility.

Watch the video can be found online here. For more information about the project visit www.GATEway-project.org.uk or follow @GATEway_TRL

The autonomous system in the Toyota Prius has been developed by Gobotix as a prototype platform for research and development and can operate in both manual and autonomous mode.

About GATEway

GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) is an £8m research project, led by TRL and jointly funded by government and industry, to understand and overcome the technical, legal and societal challenges of implementing automated vehicles in an urban environment.

Taking place in Greenwich, one of the UK’s leading smart cities, the project will trial and validate a series of different use cases for automated vehicles, including driverless shuttles and automated urban deliveries.

Results will help both industry and policymakers understand the implications of driverless vehicles and deliver a safe and validated test environment in the UK, driving job creation and investment in a rapidly emerging technology area.

GATEway is one of several projects taking place in the UK Smart Mobility Lab at Greenwich – an open, real world, test environment for connected and automated vehicles. It is one of three projects awarded by Innovate UK under its ‘Introducing driverless cars to UK roads’ competition.


See more at: http://www.gateway-project.org.ukor follow @GATEway_TRL


Objectives of the GATEway project:

·         Demonstrate the safe and efficient integration of sophisticated automated transport systems into complex real world smart city environments.


·         Generate valuable, exploitable knowledge of the systems required for the effective validation, deployment, management and integration of automated transport within a smart city environment.


·         Understand technical, cultural, societal and legal challenges and barriers to adoption surrounding automated vehicles.


·         Create a validated test bed in the heart of London for the evaluation of next generation automated transport systems, including the detailed testing protocols and benchmark data for independent verification of automated systems.


·         Inspire industry, public bodies and the wider public to engage with autonomous transport technology.


·         Position UK PLC at the forefront of the global connected and autonomous vehicle marketplace, encouraging inward investment and job creation.


About TRL
TRL is the global centre for innovation in transport and mobility. It provides world-leading research, technology and software solutions for surface transport modes and related markets of automotive, motorsport, insurance and energy.

Independent from government, industry and academia, TRL helps organisations create global transport systems that are safe, clean, affordable, liveable and efficient. Core areas of expertise include transport safety, vehicle engineering & simulation, investigations & major incident forensics, human factors & behavioural science, intelligent transport systems, infrastructure asset management and sustainability & climate change.


Established in 1933 within the British Government as the UK’s transport research laboratory, TRL was subsequently privatised in 1996. Today, TRL has more than 1,000 clients across 145 countries, driving positive societal and economic benefit worldwide.

More information can be found at www.trl.co.uk or on: Twitter | LinkedIn | YouTube.



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