Iseauto prior to inaugural ride from the Estonian National Museum, Source: Ove Maidla /

Tartu trials self-driving bus

Tartu trials self-driving bus

The two-month long test runs are part of the pan-European project Ride2Autonomy

From 2 September, an eight-seat self-driving bus will start shuttling passengers from Tartu‘s city centre to the Estonian National Museum in the outskirts and back. The pilot project will last two months and if successful, will pave the way for rolling out a more capacious and permanent self-driving museum bus.

The bus named Iseauto is manufactured by the Estonian company Auve Tech. The minuscule vehicle will allow people to experiment with innovative, environmentally friendly and needs-based public transport. The route will operate for two months from Wednesday through Sunday.  

Ride2Autonomy project

Tartu is one of ten cities in the European Union involved in the European Commission-funded project Ride2Autonomy. Making autonomous vehicles, including their ordering and management software, a natural part of the public transport fleet will present a major challenge to local governments in the near future. So, the aim of the pan-European project is to gain practical experience in the introduction of self-driving buses and the development of public transport services involving autonomous vehicles.

Pirko Konsa, CEO of the project’s lead partner Modern Mobility OÜ told the city website that for the first time in Estonia, the demand-based public transport ordering and management software platform VEDAS is being tested, which will enable the service of self-driving buses to be automatically organised in the future.

Konsa joined the Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas, the Director of the Estonian National Museum Alar Karis, the Member of the European Parliament Riho Terras, and the Member of the Board of Auve Tech OÜ Mari-Ly Klaats in Iseato’s inaugural ride.

Operator on board

Although Iseauto is driver-less, the law obliges an operator to be on-board at all times, so that to be able to take control of the automated system in tricky traffic situations.

The slow-moving vehicle with a maximum speed of 25 km/h may not come to the liking of some edgier drivers, Modern Mobility’s Tanel Talve told ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera'. Therefore, the transport company appeals to drivers to treat the new “apprentice” on the road with patience and a pinch of humour. Meanwhile, Tartu city authorities are putting up signage informing drivers about the unique bus.

The trial period will see Iseauto halting at fixed stops to drop off and pick up passengers. In the long run, driver-less buses will travel to order and will be hailed by passengers via an app.



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