Telia and car-sharing company Elmo are bringing remotely controlled passenger cars to Estonia’s streets. Thanks to Telia’s 5G connectivity and Elmo’s remote-control technology, cars can be remotely delivered to the doorsteps of Elmo’s customers.
Andre Visse, Chief Technical Officer at Telia Estonia, says: “The collaboration with Elmo is a great example of the exciting opportunities 5G can offer. We are very pleased to be able to use 5G to promote innovation in Estonia and do it together with a local partner.”
When using the 5G network, there is minimal delay between the inputs made by remote control and the movements of the car, which ensures safety for passengers and the surrounding environment.
The remote-control technology allows the customer to use the car once it is delivered and to end the rental session anywhere, without the need to search for parking. The remote operator then takes control of the car and delivers it to the next customer or to a charging station, as Elmo’s fleet is entirely electric. This approach ultimately allows the company to serve a larger customer base with a smaller fleet and minimize the time and resources required to deliver vehicles to customers.
Enn Laansoo, Jr., CEO and founder of Elmo, says: “An increasing number of people no longer identify with owning fancy things, including cars. Cars stay parked 95% of the time, especially in an urban environment. At Elmo we have already reduced this to 55% and with remote driving we will see further reduction. This showcases the nonsense of owning a car and supports the vision of sharing. Sharing is caring, both from an economic and an environmental perspective.”
Remote operators can serve up to 10 cars an hour as they do not need to change location. The setup also significantly decreases the need for parking and brings both cost and environmental benefits. Elmo’s fleet consists entirely of electrical vehicles, which also contributes to reducing the carbon footprint of the service.
As the service is new and remote drivers have not yet covered a lot of miles on the road, Elmo currently provides an extra driver in the car for backup while the car is driven remotely. This also helps to ensure public acceptance, Laansoo explains. Once the remote drivers have more experience and the solution has proved that it is safe on the road, Elmo expects to deliver cars entirely remotely, without the need for an extra driver behind the wheel. Drivers who control cars remotely are required to receive training and pass a remote driving test before they get a license. For additional safety, remotely controlled cars are subject to lower speed limits.
Car sharing is a business model that supports the transition to a circular economy, with sharing replacing ownership and allowing for more efficient use of resources. Elmo’s data shows that remote control enables savings on operational costs and increases the time each car is in use by more than 50% compared to the average privately owned vehicle.
In the long run, the technology makes car rental more convenient and accessible to different customer groups, including people with disabilities that prevent them from driving, who could in the future be served by a remote operator. Car sharing is one use case for remote vehicle control. Using 5G connectivity, various types of machines and vehicles can be remotely controlled in multiple environments, including for commercial and industrial uses such as the handling of hazardous loads or mining applications.
5G connectivity also enables autonomous vehicles that are developed as the future of road transport. Unlike remotely controlled cars, autonomous vehicles are robotic and move without human input. Telia has also been part of several projects for the introduction of self-driving trucks and buses. While these can already be used in some commercial and industrial environments for automated processes, it is expected to take time before we see them on roads in urban areas.
Telia and Elmo have been cooperating since 2013, when a solution was developed that enabled customers to open vehicle doors via SMS.