Self-driving vehicle testing goes on, though legislation not yet formulated
Self-driving vehicles, while increasingly common on Estonia's roads, remain a fairly new phenomenon worldwide, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reports. So far, the full technical requirements for the operation has yet to be developed, the Transport Board (Transpordiamet).
While corresponding legislation in Estonia is still under development, the driver-less vehicles can continue to be tested on public roads in Tallinn and elsewhere in Estonia, for instance by courier services DHL and DPD, as readers may have observed.
So far as the law is concerned, this state of affairs is acceptable, provided a human operator is on hand to remotely control the vehicle.
Jürgo Vahtra, Transport Board's technical department, said: "Fortunately for us, the Traffic Act also takes into account activity such as controlling the vehicle whereby the driver is not actually in the seat, but still manages to influence the control devices in one way or another."
"This means these remote-controlled and also self-driving vehicles can be on the roads in our traffic, at least for testing purposes," Vahtra went on.
The board says it evaluates remote-controlled vehicles before they are permitted on the streets.
There are several shortcomings driver-less vehicles have so far exhibited, the board says.
For instance, there is a slight delay in the relay of what the remote controller can see and the vehicle itself, while should communication be lost for any reason, it can be the case that the vehicle does not stop by itself – this has reportedly happened on occasion.
Minister of Climate Kristen Michal (Reform) told AK that: "The plan is to regulate things more effectively, as there are many requirements which are not yet in place in the current traffic law - how these remotely controlled or autonomous vehicles work in detail, what conditions the operator sitting behind the screen must meet, whether they actually control the vehicle or simply monitor it, and so on."
Another company using remote control is Elmo rental. Their testing has been ongoing for six months already, and allow a renter to direct the car to a pick up point which is suitable for them.
This journey is made using two human beings monitoring the vehicle including one "driver", though Elmo's CEO Enn Laansoo says that they hope to reach a point where this is no longer needed at some point in summer.
Laansoo said bugs are a part of life and the company, like all tech firms, is reliant on the communications network.
"But today, after spitting three times over one's shoulder (for good luck-ed.), we have not had any incidents happen yet," Laansoo went on.
The exact regulation and legislative framework for self-driving vehicles should be established in the second half of this year, AK reported.
Estonian companies have been involved in trialing driver-less vehicle services outside of Estonia too, for instance Clevon's delivery vehicles as tested in Belgium.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Iida-Mai Einmaa