Estonia allows testing of first self-driving cars on public roads to begin ({{commentsTotal}})

A self-driving vehicle in Tallinn. March 2, 2017.
A self-driving vehicle in Tallinn. March 2, 2017. Source: (ELeesistumine/Twitter)

Beginning on Thursday, the testing of self-driving cars is allowed on the streets and roads of Estonia on condition that the vehicle has a driver who can take control of the car if needed.

"One of Estonia's keys to success over the years has been the emergence and implementation of innovative solutions," Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson said in a press release. "Self-driving cars as a means of everyday transport needs to advance while ensuring the safety of allroad users."

According to Pirko Konsa, head of the group of experts on self-driving vehicles established under the Government Office last fall, Estonia as a small and flexible country has the opportunity to be the first in applying new solutions, and 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," Konsa explained. "Of course, all of this must be tested, with regard to the software, hardware and business models. Our message today is that Estonia's state authorities and experts ahve reached an agreement and the testing of self-driving cars on Estonia's public roads can commence."

According to Jürgo Vahtra, head of the Technical Department at the Estonian Road Administration, the road administration is cooperating closely with similar administrative bodies from other European states in the field of self-driving cars. "The situation is new and we must be sure that the mechanical as well as software aspects of these cars comply with all requirements," he said. "Any testing activities will be carried out under the supervision of the Estonian Road Administration, and they must be safe."

The right to test self-driving vehicles on Estonia's public roads applies to self-driving vehicles classified as level SAE 2 or SAE 3 according to the classification system of teh 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 can take control of it if necessary.

The expert group will continue to work out the responsibilities, insurance, privacy, ethics and other related topics in order to reach solutions that will allow for vehicles of higher autonomy, i.e. levels 4 and 5 of the SAE Internernational standard J3016, to take to the streets in the future.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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