Bolt teams up with University of Tartu to launch self-driving tech research

A taxi displaying the Bolt logo (photo is illustrative).
A taxi displaying the Bolt logo (photo is illustrative). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Bolt, the Estonian-founded on-demand transportation platform, is partnering with the University of Tartu (TÜ) for an applied research project on the development of self-driving technology for a Level 4 autonomous car. This project will contribute to Bolt's vision of making moving around cities easier, faster and more reliable, the company said on Thursday.

The research sets a goal for integrating autonomous vehicles (AVs) on Bolt's transportation platform by 2026, Bolt said in a press release. In the short term, the company will collaborate with TÜ to run AV pilots in suitable urban areas.

While Bolt has previously held machine-learning contests, in which it has challenged participants to model an autonomous fleet using the platform's data, this partnership with TÜ will step up Bolt's commitment in exploring ways how autonomous fleets can begin augmenting or replacing human drivers in 5-10 years on some routes, the company said.

The research partnership is aimed at achieving Level 4 autonomy, which is defined as not requiring human intervention in most situations, apart from driving in uncharted areas or extreme weather conditions.

"We're already helping millions of people move around their cities faster and more easily," Chief Product Officer Jevgeni Kabanov said. "With the growing demand for ride-hailing services, autonomous vehicle technology will provide a solution for transportation problems on an increasingly broader scale."

According to Kabanov, rather than Bolt developing its own vehicle, the goal of the project is to build its self-driving technology with a focus on software and maps on top of existing platforms and open-source software. "This approach will allow us to leverage our team's expertise in deep learning, maps and optimization," he added.

"Collaboration with Bolt provides us with a great opportunity to do applied research in autonomous driving technologies through practical lab experiments in real traffic environments in various research directions," said Anne Jääger, head of industry collaboration at TÜ's Institute of Computer Science. "Our researchers will support Bolt in developing self-driving vehicle-based services, and by involving students in lab experiments we'll prepare them for future careers in the field of autonomous technologies."

The partnership agreement between Bolt and TÜ was signed this spring. Vehicles equipped with self-driving technology are expected to begin their first road tests early next year.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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