A basic ingredient of any successful economy is a well-functioning transportation network – the roads, railways, ferries, border crossings and public services necessary for the efficient flow of people and goods. In recent years, governments and industries have begun to improve these networks with what are known as Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), advanced applications and innovative services that help users get the most out of their infrastructure.
Like many developed nations, Estonia has introduced a number of ITS solutions designed to make travel safer and logistics more convenient.The national Road Administration, which provides much of the energy and vision for Estonian ITS development, has implemented unique services such as the Tarktee (Smart Road) trip-planning website. Visitors to the site can find real-time information about the road conditions along their planned routes including air and road temperatures, wind speeds, visibility and the like – vital knowledge in a country where winter weather can be extreme. Users can also view the conditions live via cameras as well as see ongoing road maintenance projects that could cause delays.
While the Road Administration continues to work towards next-generation solutions like on-demand bus services, smart bike racks and provisions for autonomous vehicles, Estonia's private sector is making its own strides in ITS development.
At the country's eastern border, an ITS created by Estonian-based company GoSwift has practically eliminated the once chronic problem of cargo vehicles having to wait for hours or even days to cross into Russia. GoSwift's e-border queueing reservation system, introduced in 2011, moved the queues into the virtual realm, cutting on-site waiting times to under an hour.
Meanwhile, local companies Nortal and Hansab are developing a smart check-in system for ferry passengers and cargo carriers at the Port of Tallinn's Old City Harbour. The Smart Port system will assist with traffic flows both before and after check-in on the Tallinn-Helsinki seaway, one of Europe's busiest ferry routes.FinEst, a cooperative ITS project among institutions in both Estonia and Finland, also aims to improve mobility on the Tallinn-Helsinki ferry route. Started in 2016, the three-year programme includes multiple pilot solutions designed to optimize the flow of people, public transport, private cars and trucks at Helsinki's West Harbour and Tallinn's Old City Harbour.
Elsewhere, Estonia's Starship Technologies is partnering with Mercedes-Benz Vans to develop a groundbreaking delivery system called Robovan. The system works by having vans stop in strategically-chosen spots in local neighbourhoods then deploy small fleets of self-driving delivery robots to make the final drop off. If successful, this ITS solution could become a global phenomenon.