University of Tartu showcases first autonomous hydrogen vehicle

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University of Tartu's autonomous hydrogen vehicle. Source: Facebook/University of Tartu

The University of Tartu unveiled the world's first autonomous hydrogen vehicle on Monday, created by Estonian enterprise Auve Tech in cooperation with university researchers. The first passenger on the vehicle was President Kersti Kaljulaid.

The hydrogen shuttle, which at the beginning of June successfully drove its first test kilometers and was authorised by the Estonian Road Administration for public traffic, was completed thanks to the collaboration that started in February 2020. 

The vehicle is powered by low-temperature hydrogen cells, which were developed at the University of Tartu and which produce energy from hydrogen right inside Auve Tech's self-driving shuttle. Seating up to six passengers, it is primarily aimed at enhancing last-mile transportation. 

The shuttle can drive without human interference both in public traffic and semi-closed areas; its movements can be monitored and, if necessary, corrected by remote control.

At the premiere of the vehicle, President Kersti Kaljulaid held a speech in which she emphasised that the development of a hydrogen shuttle is not only an important milestone in the integration of two promising future technologies, but also marks a major step towards the new reality in which people and innovative scientific solutions meet in everyday life.

"No one in the world has dared to spend time and resources on bringing together two parallel developments in transport - autonomous driving and remote control with hydrogen fuel. This shows that both technologies are still in an experimental stage," Kaljulaid spoke.

"Undeniably, an entrepreneur who combines these two things takes a risk that is not twice but two squared as big. We actually don't know what exactly our future will be and how soon it will be here. Like always, the problem is not in science or technology, but in the human being. We cannot imagine what happens when we have two types of drivers in traffic. It is possible that we, the Homo sapiens, must step away from the steering wheel to make room for self-driving vehicles," she added.

"Over 30 years, Estonians have done a lot of things that others have said they would, but do not dare to do. In this sense, Auve Tech's hydrogen car fits perfectly into the worldview of Estonians," the president emphasized.

More than 50 students were involved in the hydrogen shuttle project and all of them acquired much valuable knowledge about innovative hydrogen technology. "Today is definitely a significant day for the whole world but we still have so much energy, so that for us it is just a landmark on our long journey," Auve Tech founder Väino Kaldoja said about the shuttle, named Liisu after his granddaughter.

Kersti Kaljulaid taking a look at the hydrogen vehicle. Source: Facebook/University of Tartu

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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