Andrey Volgin on Obstacles to Autonomous Vehicle Adoption in Russia

Unmanned technologies seem to be up for becoming resident on roads. The global success story of robotic cars grows longer day by day. And how is Russian self-driving car industry faring? What obstacles stand in the way? An expert in smart mobility systems told MK all about this.
Hyundai has recently announced that a Level 4 autonomous vehicle will be tested in Seoul in the first half of 2022. According to Yonhap news agency, the vehicle will be tested in the streets within a designated area downtown in South Korea’s capital. Level 4 means that the car works with minimal human driver intervention or control, reacting to unforeseen situations. The developer company goal is to implement a robotic delivery service.

On the same day, French EasyMile announced that its EasyMile EZ10 self-driving bus had reached Level 4. The company obtained permission to use self-driving shuttles to transport people in mixed traffic. This is the first Level 4 self-driving vehicle in the European Union authorized to operate on public roads. In the fall of 2022, the EasyMile EZ10 mini-shuttle will be put to regular service at the Oncopole Medical Campus in Toulouse, to commute along a fixed route.
In total, there are already about 3 thousand autonomous vehicles operating worldwide.
What about Russia? As the Moscow Department of Transport and Mobility Infrastructure Development has recently told the press, the city’s readiness for autonomous vehicle testing is high. The Department has examined the streets where self-driving taxis will travel as part of a pilot project. Moscow is said to become the first European capital where unmanned taxis will be put to service. 

However, things are not that simple with the adoption of autonomous vehicles in Russia, says Andrey Volgin, head of Mobility Group. Part of Urbantech, this company is engaged in the development of smart mobility systems.
The expert opines that autonomous vehicles are underpinned by powerful economic drivers: they yield higher margins, reduce personnel costs, alleviate the human factor impacts.
Besides, Andrey Volgin believes that adoption of autonomous vehicles is fueled by such major infrastructure projects as the development of a cargo corridor highway to link Moscow and St. Petersburg by 2024. 

Two options exist: either make sure that routes are covered with WiFi-based dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) service, or allow a vehicle to communicate with any object via 5G communication networks (C-V2X).

Such systems make it possible to position elements of road infrastructure and vehicles on the road and broadcast information about who is located where, to everyone.
“Trucks will eventually be able to drive in convoys,” said Andrey Volgin. “Cars will be warned if someone ahead has braked or is about to pop up from around a corner.”

Andrey Volgin highlighted the following issues obstructing adoption of unmanned technologies: 4G road coverage in Russia is nowhere near being continuous, while 5G exists only in pilot zones; up-to-date data on mobility infrastructure is scarce.

“We need to create a digital twin of the mobility system, and Russian companies have all the necessary technologies to do so,” the expert believes. 

There are other problems as well. “Besides technological barriers that are while-by-while addressed by the IT business and government-owned companies, there is still the ethical dimension to the issue,” Andrey Volgin said. “Can a vehicle be taught to make the right decisions in all situations? For example, which will an AV prefer: smash down a crowd of pedestrians or self-destruct by ramming into a concrete wall? What happens if an autonomous vehicle falls into the hands of terrorists? It is thus important to regulate these issues legislatively before unmanned driving can be launched as a fully featured service in Russia.”