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Final report: self-driving vehicles on Estonian roads may signal the end of traffic deaths

15. February 2018 - 13:55

As instructed by the Strategy Unit of the Government Office, the independent expert group on self-driving vehicles examined the study on the entry of self-driving vehicles into Estonia’s transportation system and found that the adoption of innovative transportation technology could create the prerequisite necessary for achieving zero fatalities in traffic accidents in Estonia, while also raising the level of competitiveness of Estonia’s transportation sector.

The expert group, which was established on 15 August 2016, has issued its final report on self-driving vehicles, in which it broadly explains the potential, risks and possibilities involved in the digitalisation of traffic and self-driving vehicles. The report also looks at how 90% of the kilometres covered in Estonia could be self-driven by 2030 and what such a radical change would mean to the public sector, business and society.

According to Marten Kaevats, digital innovation adviser at the Government Office, the reason technical solutions are not described in detail in the final report is due to the pace of technological development in the field being quite rapid. ‘It is important to consider that the topic required more in-depth investigation in Estonia prior to convening the expert group. We now have a preliminary map and pilot project, following the implementation of which Estonia will be ready for the age of autonomous and learning robots’. According to Kaevats, Estonia’s experience with the digital state and e-government provides a significant competitive advantage when it comes to being at the forefront of developing successful self-driving technology.

‘The expert group presented the question of when rather than if, as it is clear that robots are playing an increasingly important role in the division of labour in modern society. Self-driving cars are simply robots on four wheels, which must be used wisely in order to raise the competitiveness of Estonia’s transportation sector and the state itself’, said Pirko Konsa, head of the expert group on self-driving vehicles, explaining the work group’s most important assignment. ‘We are currently in the process of planning pilot projects in order to test how public transportation will begin to function on Saaremaa using regular vehicles, and this is a step towards self-driving vehicles taking over the servicing of such lines in the future.

The expert group’s final report notes that success in implementing the change will depend on a change in attitudes and strategic steps taken at the state level, and the necessary investments in a new type of transportation infrastructure. The topic of self-driving vehicles must also be examined as a whole – with political, societal and legal questions being resolved alongside technological ones.

As of March 2017, the testing of self-driving vehicles is legal on all public roads across Estonia. This is only permitted if a human driver is able to control the vehicle and thereby be legally responsible.

The analysis by the expert group on self-driving vehicles was ordered by the Strategy Unit of the Government Office of the Republic of Estonia and funded by the Operational Programme for Cohesion Policy Funds, 2014-2020, priority axis 12 Administrative Capacity, action 12.2 Development of Quality of Policy-Making.

Additional information and questions:
Pirko Konsa, Head of Expert Group
Tel. +372 56 80 0211