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David Woessner: Estonia has a competitive advantage as the testing ground for autonomous vehicles

David C. Woessner is the General Manager of the Local Motors facility in National Harbor, MD, a technology company that designs, builds, and sells vehicles. He is responsible for the operations of the educational, sales and demonstration facility located just outside of Washington D.C. An expert in topics of globalisation, localisation and emerging technologies, David has written articles and white papers on mobility, connectivity and automotive technology hubs.

You are working on the disruption of mobility. What is the main obstacle? Is it that the new disruptive concept of mobility will actually result in less cars and the industry is hesitant to give up these market shares?

We, Local Motors, are working to change mobility and redefining “the Ride” so that there will be less vehicles on the road, such that we have reduced congestion and emissions. However, there are a few significant obstacles – mainly consumer education and confidence in the new technology and modernising regulatory frameworks to enable the deployment of new mobility vehicles.

What will it take for the government regulators to see this disruption through? Autonomous vehicles on the roads will require quite a few legislative changes of traffic regulations etc. Is there a “legal lag”?

It depends. Certainly, in many places technology has outpaced legislation and governments at all levels have had a hard time keeping up with new mobility solutions entering the market. However, in certain instances, governments have moved too fast and put regulations in place before completely understanding the application and use cases of the technology, which in turn hindered the deployment and growth of the technology.

The technology of autonomous vehicles has been available for quite some time now and we have heard for almost a decade that autonomous cars will hit the road in the immediate future. Still, it’s not happening as fast as predicted. Why? What is the realistic foreseeable roll-out timeline?

Well, I am not going to make a bold prediction here, because those don’t age well. What I will say is that the Future is here, but it is not evenly distributed. Some of the applications of the technology are in the marketplace in certain areas, but mass market adoption is not going to happen anytime soon.

Estonia is keen to become the testing ground for autonomous vehicles (as are many other countries). Do you see a competitive advantage here for this? Even though there is no local car industry? Or exactly because of that?

I really enjoyed my visit to Tallinn and interacted with many local stakeholders who are interested in this exact topic. I think Estonia, because of its relatively small size and willingness to embrace new technology and new methods to government regulation, has a competitive advantage.

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