Humans helping self-driving cars from miles away

(CBS) -- Ben Shuckman, our remote driver, is a few miles away in a Silicon Valley office. California is one of at least five states that allows self-driving cars to be on the road without a safety driver if they have a system in place for a human to take over remotely.

Phantom Auto doesn't build self-driving cars, but they're hoping their technology can come to the rescue of a confused autonomous vehicle. It uses cell phone signals and cameras already mounted to the vehicle so a remote operator can take over in a situation where the car doesn't know what to do.

"They go through a very strict training procedure in order to learn how to operate something completely new," Shuckman says.

Federal regulations are stalled in Congress, leaving oversight largely to the states. Some are stricter than others. The self-driving Uber crash that killed a pedestrian in Arizona has prompted states to take a second look at their regulations as the technology is not foolproof

Phantom Auto sees its service working a bit like OnStar, a remote help desk reachable automatically or with the touch of a button by passengers, where one person could be the backup driver for multiple vehicles, leaving the backup for the self-driving car firmly in the hands of a person.