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Hitachi demonstrates remote car summoning that can avoid the unexpected

The long-range remote vehicle-summoning technology combines preset route guidance with dynamic obstacle and pedestrian avoidance.

Marc Ganley/Roadshow

So, you've parked your car at the mall, done your shopping and now you're loaded up with heavy bags. Wouldn't it be nice if your car could just come to you? Hitachi's long-range summon technology demonstrated at CES 2019 promises just that.

Of course, this isn't the first time we've seen remote summoning for vehicles. Tesla, BMW and other premium automakers have similar tech in production cars. However, Hitachi's CES demonstration is able to operate over a longer distance and can do more than just follow a preset path. It can "think dynamically" to avoid obstacles along the way.

The user connects with Hitachi's car via a smartphone app over a cellular connection like 4G LTE. The app reports the car's position relative to the operator on a map and the path it will take back to the owner. The use of a bidirectional mobile connection means that the Hitachi car can technically be used outside of line of sight, though the ultimate legality of doing so is still undecided.

With a tap of the app, the driver summons the car.

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Earlier, when the car was parked, it memorized a GPS path to the driver's position that it can follow autonomously without a human behind the wheel. However, Hitachi's tech can also improvise along the way to avoid new and unexpected obstacles in the path, transitioning from dynamic to learned pathfinding.

For example, it's more natural for a car to move forward than reversing all the way back to the driver, so in the demonstration we saw, the Hitachi car improvised a three-point turn after backing out of its starting spot. Along the path, someone had placed a shopping cart that the demonstration car dynamically steered around and, when a Hitachi engineer stepped from between two parked cars into the vehicle's path, the vehicle smoothly stopped, waited for the pedestrian to move on and then resumed its trip back to the driver.

The system is powered by a suite of Hitachi and Clarion sensors -- lidar, radar, cameras and sonar -- but can also integrate with most OEM vehicle sensor packages. Hitachi hopes to partner with automakers to supply the long-range summon tech to future vehicles.

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