TALLINN – As of Thursday, the testing of self-driving cars is allowed on the roads of Estonia, but the car must also have a driver who will take control of the car if necessary.
Self-driving cars are a transport solution of the future which humans and regulations should get used to gradually, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson said in a press release. "One of Estonia's keys to success over the years has been the emergence and implementation of innovative solutions. Self-driving cars as means of everyday transport need to advance while ensuring the safety of all road users," Simson added.
The Road Administration is cooperating closely with similar administrative bodies of other European states in the field of self-driving cars, Jurgo Vahtra, the technical department head of the Road Administration, said. "The situation is new and we have to be sure that the mechanical, as well as the software aspects of these cars, comply with all the requirements. Any testing activities are carried out under the supervision of the Road Administration, and they have to be safe," he added.
According to Pirko Konsa, the head of the group of experts on self-driving vehicles created under the Government Office last fall, Estonia as a small and flexible country has the opportunity to be the first in applying new solutions, and local entrepreneurs could become the first to export this know-how to international markets.
"The technology is in a stage where it can take over several tasks from the driver and make traffic much safer. Of course, all of this has to be tested, with regard to the software, the hardware, and the business models. Our message today is that the state authorities and the experts of Estonia have reached an agreement and the testing of self-driving cars on Estonia's public roads can commence," he added.
The testing right for Estonia's public roads applies to self-driving vehicles classified as level SAE 2 or SAE 3 vehicles according to the classification of the International Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International). These vehicles must have a driver either within the vehicle or act remotely who is responsible for the vehicle and takes control of it if necessary. The expert group is continuing its work on the responsibilities, insurance, privacy, ethics and other related topics in order to reach solutions that will make it possible to let vehicles of higher autonomy (levels 4 and 5 of the SAE International standard J3016) drive on the streets.