Mar 28, 2019

Virtual backseat driver

Valeo Voyage XR streams an avatar into the back seat. Photo: Valeo

Valeo, a global auto supplier, has figured out how to teleport someone into your vehicle using virtual reality.

Why it matters: If an AV needed help, a safety driver could virtually step in and take control using remote control technology.

Background: In many states where AVs are being tested, teleoperation — or remote guidance — is required for safety.

  • Most AV companies have a teleops command center where trained drivers monitoring multiple screens are prepared to offer guidance if an AV encounters a situation that's confusing, like a construction zone or a double-parked car.
  • Sometimes, an operator is even able to remotely take control of the vehicle to steer around the obstacle and get it back on track.

What's new: Valeo's Drive4U Remote technology can do this, but adds another layer of intervention by simulating the virtual presence of a person in the car with you through its Voyage XR technology. Both innovations were unveiled at CES.

  • During a demo last week at Valeo's Silicon Valley R&D center, I donned a VR headset and held a pair of controllers, then sat in an office chair while my avatar popped into the back seat of a car being driven by a Valeo engineer.
  • Later, we swapped places and she rode along virtually with me, chatting and interacting by displaying her photos on my car's touchscreen.
  • As virtual passengers, we each got to select a personal avatar which was displayed in the car's rearview mirror.

VR is already on its way into cars. Audi and Disney also made a splash at CES with their debut of a new Holoride system that lets passengers play video games or immerse themselves in other experiences.

My thought bubble: It all sounds like a big distraction to me, but I suppose it could be useful when we are passengers, not drivers, in autonomous vehicles.

Valeo has more mundane uses in mind for VR in the car, too.

  • It could be used to train truck drivers, for example, or to let parents keep an eye on teen drivers. 
  • Or, it could even let you to take loved ones on a road trip without having to pay for an extra hotel room.

Go deeper

Sign of the times: A pro-Warren super PAC

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Nevada. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of women progressives who back Sen. Elizabeth Warren has formed Persist PAC, a super PAC airing pro-Warren ads starting Wednesday in an effort to boost her performance ahead of Saturday's crucial Nevada caucuses, a spokesman told Axios.

Why it matters: Warren has spoken adamantly against the influence of unlimited spending and dark money in politics. But these supporters have concluded that before Warren can reform the system, she must win under the rules that exist — and that whether she likes it or not, their uncoordinated help may be needed to keep her viable through this weekend's contest and into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Pentagon policy chief resigns amid reported discord with Trump

John Rood. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

John Rood, the Pentagon's top policy official, will resign from his post on Feb. 28, CNN first reported and President Trump confirmed.

The state of play: CNN said Rood "was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted," such as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban and a decision to cut back on military exercises with South Korea as the president courted North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Coronavirus cases rise, as warnings of global pandemic grow

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

We may be "at the brink" of a global pandemic, warns a top U.S. public health official, as cases continue to spread despite containment efforts. Meanwhile, the global economy is being affected, including the tech manufacturing industry.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,000 people and infected over 75,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 136 new deaths since Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health