The 5G Blueprint project, exploring the possibilities of tele-operation within the logistics industry, has opened up a whole new field of research, technology to be tested and questions to be answered. Nevertheless, before solutions can be provided, one needs to identify the challenges.
Discussions with the consortium partners have led to a first identification of the risks, benefits and requirements for tele-operation. The biggest advantage seems to be the disappearance of idle time. Currently a truck driver is obligated to rest minimal 11 hours per day, leaving the vehicle idle. However with tele-operation the truck could keep moving continuously as in the back ground tele-operators will be taking over shifts. A barge captain for example, will remain on to board to wait until the vessel is loaded or unloaded. When however a tele-operator would be steering the vessel, there is no need to stay on board during waiting hours and that time could be used to steer another barge towards its destination.
One of the biggest risks related to tele-operation was considered to be the capabilities of the 5G network. A lot of promises have been made regarding bandwidth, latency, stability and cross border network coverage. But the big question remains if 5G will be able to live up to that promise even when millions of trucks and ships are in need of a flawless connection even at remote locations and when crossing borders?
It’s not surprising that this risk at the same time was defined as one of the preliminary requirements for deployment of tele-operated transport. Runner up would be creation of a legal framework indicating the conditions for deployment, insurance and liability when vehicle and tele-operator are in different countries, tele-operator qualifications, etc. First place has to be appointed to the minimum safety requirement, which would be the ability of a vehicle or vessel to stop, pull over or keep station fully autonomous in case of emergencies like collision risk, loss of connection or technical errors.
The challenges have been identified, now it is time to start working on the solutions.