Forklift operators are using remote-control technology that allows them to work off-site, controlling their machines from afar. The BBC reports: [A]s Covid-19 spreads easily, the warehouses dotted along the world's supply chains have become potential hubs of disease transmission, says Elliot Katz, co-founder of Phantom Auto. Phantom Auto's technology is now installed in around a dozen warehouses in the US and Europe, he adds. Some of the warehouses using Phantom Auto's technology fence-off the space where the remote-controlled forklifts work, says Mr Katz and the forklifts are also fitted with microphones so the operator can be warned should something be about to go wrong. "If someone is behind that forklift and says, 'Hey, you're about to hit me,' the operator can hear it just like he's sitting on the forklift," says Mr Katz.
Among the other firms working in the teleoperation space is US start-up Teleo. It specializes in retrofitting construction equipment so it can be driven remotely. It has just started a trial at a quarry for an unnamed client. In this case, Teleo has adapted a large-wheeled loading vehicle so it can be controlled from an office on site. In the future, a driver could sit in the office and remotely control a variety of vehicles nearby. That might mean fewer people would be employed on-site overall but Teleo argues it makes the role safer for the driver.
But the idea of vehicles driven like this is controversial for some. There's always the possibility a terrorist, for example, might try to hack such a system and use a teleoperated car or truck to kill people. Mr Katz and Mr Shet [Teleo co-founder and chief executive] both say their firms have thought about this scenario and add that their engineers have introduced various steps to make a cyber-attack harder. For example, by encrypting communications between teleoperator and vehicle, requiring authorization of drivers and automatically shutting down vehicles should they lose access to a reliable communications signal. No-one can guarantee that such a system will never be hacked, though.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.