Self-driving minibuses set to roam the streets of Tallinn in 2017

12.12.2016

Estonia will be holding the presidency of the EU for its first time during the second half of 2017. As such, it’s expected that the number of foreign officials visiting Estonia will increase exponentially. This is a unique opportunity to present the tech-savvy nature of Estonians.

With approximately 20 high-level events due to take place, as well as up to 12 unofficial meetings of various ministers from all over Europe, it is important to show the world what Estonia has to offer, what the country can do and how Europe could benefit from our actions.

Around 20000-30000 visitors are expected to flock to Estonia during the EU presidency, therefore it is vital to ensure that the transport system can cope with this pressure. Of course not everyone is going to use public transportation, but if they do, it should be as high-tech and convenient as possible.

One of the best examples of this ideology, and by far the coolest, is that starting July 2017, at least two self-driving minibuses will start roaming the streets of Tallinn. And they will not be driving empty. Both foreign visitors and locals can jump onboard and experience the innovative transportation technology. Even better: riding the buses is completely free of charge.

 

Self-driving buses could grant people new opportunities

“The presidency grants the opportunity to introduce Estonia as a country, that’s open to new ideas. Self-driving vehicles used for public transportation could positively benefit road safety, as well as help to save the environment,” said Valdek Laur, who is responsible for the development of a digital image of Estonia’s EU presidency.

He went on to explain that self-driving buses could be used to aid people, who have trouble moving on their own, as well as to grant people living in the countryside better movement between their homes and various locations.

 

No dusty roadsides

Self-driving buses have already graced the streets of Finland and similar projects have been run elsewhere in Europe. In Estonia, the self-driving buses will be operating in the center of the town, with the goal of providing transportation service on routes frequently used by the locals and tourists.

At this point in time, no decision has yet been made about which routes the buses will use. This needs to be coordinated with the local transport authority and other various local agencies. To find an operator for the buses, the Government Office of Estonia has announced a public procurement.

Once the buses are released into the wild, the “drivers” will be able to explain how the buses work and what using them actually means. Foreign visitors can also enjoy the explanations offered by the drivers, as they’ll be fluent in both English and Estonian, as well as Russian.

 

E-Estonia to the rescue

If self-driving buses aren’t enough to “wow” the visitors, they can always visit the e-Estonia Showroom, which offers a unique opportunity in getting to know the ways of e-Estonia on a deeper level. Around 10000 people visit the e-Estonia Showroom every year but it is to be expected that the number of visitors will increase drastically during the presidency.

The e-Estonia Showroom also plans to launch, by the time of the EU presidency, other technological innovations such as a unique online environment to introduce a wide range of different Estonian e-solutions. The e-environment will be based on virtual reality, using VR glasses and audio-visual solutions and will enable everyone to learn about and experience Estonian e-services without being present in Estonia but at the same time still feeling part of the actual local environment.