Vaughn Gittin Jr Tests Teleoperation by Drifting a Car He's Not In

Gif: Samsung UK

Portland-based tech startup Designated Driver wants to prove its remote driving technology by running what is clearly a Lincoln in a fancy wrap job up the hill at Goodwood without a driver inside. Pro drifter Vaughn Gittin, Jr. took to the steering wheel from a remote facility, operating the car with a complete VR driving setup. Not only was he able to get the Lincoln to drift, but he managed to drive it up the hill at Goodwood without hitting anything.

Remote operation is no big deal these days, as governments operate coordinated drone strikes and surgeons can perform an operation without being in the room. Operating completely on commercially available cell networks, Designated Driver was able to drive this car with visuals provided by a handful of cell phone cameras and electric inputs. And they were able to do it from over 5000 miles away. While Vaughn Gitten was only a few miles away from the car in the UK, another test driver gave it a go from the company’s Portland, Oregon headquarters.

“We were concerned about the latency,” CEO Manuela Papadopol told Automotive News. “We didn’t know. We’re in the middle of nowhere, and we didn’t know what to expect.”

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As it turns out, the latency was measured at less than 100 milliseconds. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of in-car operators performing at worse latency than that, at least my anecdotal measurement seems to prove such.

Anyway, transatlantic teleoperation is a pretty big deal for cars, as Designated Driver believes this is the first test of its kind.

Some believe that this kind of remote driving is a step on the path toward autonomous driving. Allegedly the idea is that if the car’s computer gets confused, it’ll pull an audible and punt the decision making to a remote driver, ostensibly in Designated Driver’s facility, who will make the quick decision of what to do.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want the daily pressure of making split-second, potentially life-and-death maneuvers when a computer goes into panic mode. That sounds miserable. For all parties involved.

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But the tech is pretty cool. Maybe offering a remote chauffeur service as a way to get you and your car home from a night at the bar, or let you catch some z’s on a road trip, would be a good future use for this tech? I could see that playing out.

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About the author

Bradley Brownell

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.