Self-driving Trucks to Appear on Moscow Roads in 2017

PHOTO by oleg Zoloto / RIA Novosti
Light commercial GAZel and Hyundai models will transport goods autonomously but under the supervision of a person

Gazeta.Ru received information that the first driverless trucks will appear on Moscow roads in the middle of 2017. The city government is also working on launching a fleet of self-driving taxis.

Traft, a transport company, intends to transform a part of its truck fleet into unmanned vehicles that can move on public roads. Their autonomous trucks should start to be seen not only in Moscow in six months but also in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Krasnodar.

The company recently announced a tender for purchasing software for driverless vehicles and they are planning to select a company for the tender by March 2017. It will take eight weeks to equip the first twenty GAZel, Next and Hyundai Porter models with the driverless equipment. After that they will be tested at a special site in Moscow.

As Traft explained to Gazeta.ru, testing will take about five weeks. If there are no problems, the driverless vehicles will perform their first commercial trips as early as summer 2017. By the end of 2017, the freight operator is going to convert at least 60% of its regular fleet, which is 140 trucks, into self-driving vehicles.

However, a human will still be present in the cockpit of such trucks, as required by law.

“As there is no legislation concerning unmanned transport management at the moment, an operator in the driver's seat should be present in each vehicle,” Artur Muradyan, executive director of Traft, explained. “He will oversee the operation of the system and will be able to intervene in the process at any time. All existing drivers will be retrained to be self-driving vehicle operators.”

Pioneers in the field of unmanned trucks in Russia plan to profit by more than 500 million roubles ($7.8 million) a year.

"Potential fuel savings, which can reach 20%, and control of the engines' wear and tear are important advantages of unmanned trucks,” Muradyan said. “In addition, driverless trucks will always observe the speed limit, which will not only reduce fuel consumption, but minimise traffic as well.”

The company is expecting to save at least 60 million roubles ($937,427) per year on wages, but it admits that it will be possible to reach these figures in only a year and a half.

Russia driveless trucks

Besides, even vehicles with an elementary situation-assessment function will be much less likely to get into an accident, which will reduce the cost of repairs.

Other Russian freight carriers are not in a hurry to introduce such innovations. However, some passenger transport operators are interested. For example, in October 2016, Moscow’s city government announced the start of the first unmanned taxi tests for Delimobil, the largest car-sharing operator in the capital.

Road tests of the first models will start in 2017. It's expected that self-driving taxis may become available for mass use in Moscow by 2018.

Rosavtodor has scheduled tests of unmanned KAMAZ, created in collaboration with Russian software developer Cognitive Technologies, for 2018. Testing will be carried out on a part of the highway from Kazan to Naberezhniye Chelny.

Foreign Experience

A major step forward has already been taken abroad. At the end of October, the first commercial ride took place in the United States. In its first unmanned trip, a Volvo autonomous truck transported 45 thousand cans of beer around 160 kilometres in Colorado.

Google has been testing cars based on the Lexus RX, Toyota Prius and other models in Nevada, California and Texas for several years already.

The testing of two small driverless buses began in Helsinki in August 2016. According to the results, buses, developed by the French company EasyMile, might be included into passenger traffic in Finland. Testing of autonomous vans for package delivery will start in Japan in 2017.

Ten million unmanned vehicles will be moving on public roads around the world in 2020, BI Intelligence analysts predict. IHS Automotive expects that the number of self-driven cars and trucks will exceed 21 million by 2035.

According to experts, the development of autonomous land transport will peak in 2020-2030. Experts at AT Kearney suggest that this market will be worth $560 billion in just 20 years.