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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

1 hour ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: It means former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

2 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.