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A very ­public acid test

15. February 2024 - from Folke Heyer

A growing number of mobile providers are expressing an interest in teleoperated driving technology. Their reasons go beyond the wide range of future applications that driverless remote controlled vehicles are opening up for fleet operators and logistics companies.
(Image: MIRA GmbH)

Three questions for MIRA Managing Director Klaus Kappen

Why partner with mobile providers?
Because we transmit large volumes of data via the mobile network, especially from our vehicles. Ensuring the lowest possible latency, i.e. time delay, is essential for safety reasons as much as anything else. We are also working with Deutsche Telekom to test out new network features that are specifically tailored to teleoperated driving.

What are the future prospects for the technology?
I firmly believe in the concept, and this conviction is supported in equal measure by our various customer contacts, i.e. the feedback we receive from the market.
What’s more, we are not alone – I see the existence of other market players as a good sign that we are on the right track.

Do you consider the new technology to have any other benefits?
I am confident that our technology will help to improve the efficiency and sustainability of transport as a whole, which is becoming increasingly important in light of the growing burden on our cities in particular. In this way, teleoperated driving will also make at least a small contribution to climate protection in addition to the many benefits it offers in its own right.

One of the players on the young market for teleoperated driving is MIRA GmbH. In 2022, the Düsseldorf-based start-up emerged from the Rheinmetall Technology Center, which had performed fundamental development work on the technology in the previous years. Other specialist companies of the Düsseldorf group, which conducts research in the areas of automotive and defence technology, were also included in the development process. Today, for example, they deliver components for the necessary special equipment for teleoperated vehicles, as well as for the controls and operation centres that are also required.

Real-world applications

MIRA’s particular strategy is to get ‘on the road’ as early as possible during the development process in order to avail itself of authentic test conditions for teleoperated driving. Andreas Korwes, Head of Brand and Communications at MIRA: “From the very start, we immediately wanted to develop our technology under real conditions on the public roads rather than limiting ourselves to screened-off areas, like decommissioned depots.”

However, this firstly required engaging in extensive approval processes involving the Düsseldorf regional government and TÜV Rheinland. The Düsseldorf-based mobile communication specialist Vodafone quickly emerged as a suitable partner for the “living lab” that MIRA was establishing in the industrial port of the North Rhine-Westphalian state capital. In 2022, MIRA had already received approval to test the use of its technology under real conditions on the public roads within this defined area.

Success story

No sooner said than done. In its first living lab, MIRA gained extensive experience that it used to make numerous improvements to all of the system components, from the vehicle to the control station. The latter is located at MIRA’s building in Derendorf and is where the ‘driver’ controls the teleoperated vehicles – which can be anywhere in the world as long as they are connected to a 5G network. The Düsseldorf-based mobile operator also received clear feedback on the specific demands that automated mobility will place on the network in future.

The success of its first teleoperated vehicle, a Volkswagen Golf, prompted the specialist to expand its fleet. Three MIRA vehicles, including two vans, are now a familiar sight around ­Düsseldorf – and beyond.

Already a familiar sight: MIRA vehicles on the public roads.
(Images: Ralf Grothe,

New networks

That is because another mobile provider, Deutsche Telekom, soon emerged as an interested party. The company is extremely open to innovative ideas and already entered into a partnership with MIRA in 2022. Just like ­Vodafone, technicians at Deutsche Telekom in Bonn are currently determining how they can adapt their 5G network to MIRA’s specific requirements. The aim remains to offer the best possible mobile technology that eliminates even the most minimal of delays, thereby ensuring optimum availability for the real-world operation of the technology. Approval for an additional operating area on the public roads in Bonn was obtained in spring 2023, and the approval procedure for another route is currently in progress. The aim of the partners is to establish a (driverless) shuttle between Deutsche Telekom’s locations in the near future. This will also provide the company with even better connections to the public transport network, as well as reflecting the growing demand for mobility – thereby making a clear contribution to relieving the burden on the city of Bonn.

In the near future, a (driverless) shuttle will connect Deutsche Telekom’s site on the right bank of the Rhine in Bonn with Ramersdorf underground station. Another route in the Gronau district is in the planning phase.

But what are the particular requirements for mobile networks when it comes to teleoperated driving? Heinrich Dismon, who is jointly responsible for MIRA GmbH at Rheinmetall AG as one of the Managing Directors along with Klaus Kappen, knows the answer: “Unlike time-limited events where even “normal” users make full use of the available performance of their mobile connection, teleoperated driving involves extremely high data rates on a near-permanent basis.” Dismon adds that “the transfer of large volumes of data in close to real time is essential for vehicle teleoperation”.

Speed counts

In other words, teleoperation represents a challenge even for modern mobile communication technology. Putting aside the particularly quick and reliable uploads and downloads offered by these networks, this is an area of application that very few users require to this extent.

A clear litmus test for the providers, in other words. Testing helps them to determine where they need to optimise their networks in order to meet these particular requirements. This future-oriented application also underlines the importance of new network technology in the first place.

Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges (fifth from left) was also keen to find out about the current state of the art in teleoperation. (Image: Ralf Grothe,

As such, it is hardly surprising that Deutsche Telekom presents the MIRA technology to experts at the large number of events it organises. The interest goes all the way up to Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges, who was keen to find out all about the technology and the potential of teleoperated driving from the MIRA team. In 2023, MIRA was represented for the second time at Deutsche Telekom’s annual Digital X event in Cologne, and MIRA employees recently also took part in the ‘Night of Technology’ in Bonn.

Removing the safety driver

So what’s next for teleoperated driving? The specialists have a clear answer: The next important and decisive step will be to obtain functional safety certification for the system, which is something that is currently being pursued. After this, the next development could be to obtain approval for removing the safety driver that is still required in teleoperated vehicles. Once this has been achieved and the current route limitations have been lifted, the way would be open for the technology to be rolled out on a wide scale. In the meantime, MIRA employees who represent the company at trade fairs and congresses are reporting a high level of interest among customers in industries such as logistics.

And many vehicle manufacturers want to know what enhancements they will need to make in order to keep pace with the new technology in future. In any case, the range of conceivable use cases is extremely broad. For example, an autonomous vehicle may be brought to a halt if it finds itself in a driving situation that the autonomous control system cannot resolve, such as having to cross a solid white line. A teleoperator could quickly navigate the vehicle through this “barrier”. In other words, teleoperation is not only beneficial for many areas of life and various industries, but is unquestionably also paving the way for fully automated driving.

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