Starting from today, the testing of self-driving cars is allowed on the streets and roads of Estonia. There is an additional condition that the car must also have a driver who can take control of the car if needed.
Kadri Simson, Minster of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure said that self-driving cars are an exciting transport solution for the future which humans and regulations should get adapted to gradually. "One of Estonia's keys to success over the years has been the emergence and implementation of innovative solutions. Self-driving cars as means of everyday transport need to advance, while ensuring the safety of all road users," added Simson.
According to Pirko Konsa, the head of the group of experts on self-driving vehicles created under the Government Office last autumn, Estonia as a small and flexible country has the opportunity to be first in applying new solutions, and the local entrepreneurs could become the first to export this know-how to international markets.
"The technology is in a stage where it can take over several tasks from the driver and make traffic much safer. Of course all of this has to be tested, with regard to the software, the hardware and the business models. Our message today is that the state authorities and the experts of Estonia have reached an agreement and the testing of self-driving cars on Estonia's public roads can commence," Konsa added.
The testing right for Estonia's public roads applies to self-driving vehicles classified as level SAE 2 or SAE 3 vehicles according to the classification of the International Society of Automotive Engineers. These vehicles must have a driver either within the vehicle or acting remotely, who is responsible for the vehicle and takes control of it if necessary. The expert group is continuing its work on the responsibilities, insurance, privacy, ethics and other related topics in order to reach solutions that will make it possible to let vehicles of higher autonomy (levels 4 and 5 of the SAE International standard J3016) drive on the streets.
Jürgo Vahtra, the technical department head of the Road Administration said that the Road Administration is cooperating closely with similar administrative bodies of other European states in the field of self-driving cars. "The situation is new and we have to be sure that the mechanical as well as the software aspects of these cars comply with all the requirements. Any testing activities are carried out under the supervision of the Road Administration, and they have to be safe," he added.
A seminar on this topic shall take place today in the Kulturikatel cultural centre (Tallinn Creative Hub), led by a group of experts on self-driving vehicles under the Government Office and in cooperation with the Estonian ICT Cluster and the ITS Estonia network, featuring presentations by representatives from the Road Administration, the Foundation for Future Technologies and companies of the sector. The topics will include risks associated with self-driving cars, environmental issues, user experiences and the near-future plans of Estonia as a development ground for self-driving vehicles. Experts from Finland and the UK will be present to share their experience on technology testing.