This week, Bercman Technologies, Traffest, Modern Mobility, the University of Tartu, and the City of Tartu signed a cooperation agreement to test providing on-demand transportation services, using self-driving vehicles. The aim of the tests is to validate the necessary technological solutions and processes. Preparatory work will start in Tartu already between February and April this year.
Estonia was one of the first countries in the world that, already in 2017, legalised testing self-driving vehicles on all public roads. This has triggered a wave of research and development in the field of autonomous mobility in the country. According to Marten Kaevats, former National Digital Adviser, there are 6-7 companies that are currently building self-driving vehicle solutions in Estonia. Now, several of them have joined forces to test on-demand transportation solutions and processes for self-driving vehicles.
Self-driving and demand-driven last-mile transport
According to Pirko Konsa, CEO of Modern Mobility, the company started testing of Demand Responsive Transport services in Tartu already in November 2021, and since then the number of passengers has doubled. In spring, smart infrastructure and an autonomous vehicle will be added to the test, as the aim of the new cooperation is to bring together all the parties and components of an on-demand self-driving vehicle service. The aim is to test both, the visioned on-demand self-driving vehicle concept as a whole and each process in it separately.
„In the long run, our goal is for the last-mile transport to be self-driving and demand-driven,” Konsa noted. “So, we’re testing how far we are on this journey today.”
Bercman’s task in the collaborative project is to install radars on the trajectory of the self-driving vehicle and interface the radars with the self-driving car’s control system. Bercman is also interfacing the vehicle control system with the first 5G smart pedestrian crosswalk system on Kroonuaia Street in Tartu.
“Self-driving vehicles will be common on our roads one day, and today, preparations for that are taking place in Estonia and around the world,” Mart Suurkask, CEO of Bercman Technologies noted. “Participating in this project gives us a good opportunity to test the technologies needed to make self-driving vehicles safe, not only on urban streets but also on the highways.”
According to Suurkask, the project, coordinated by the University of Tartu, will bring together specialists and technical expertise in various fields related to autonomous transportation. The successful completion of the test period is expected to have a positive impact on the further development of on-demand transport services via self-driving vehicles, and thereby increase the demand for autonomous vehicles interacting with transport infrastructure.
Despite its comparatively small size, Estonia has proven, and continues to prove, it is capable of nurturing future-oriented innovations. And one that excels and sets the pace for other countries.
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