‘Autopilot in the sky is easier than on the road’ — Tatarstan preparing law on unmanned vehicles
An initiative of the LDPR failed, and Moscow tasked our republic with developing it
The State Council of Tatarstan has prepared its version of the federal bill on unmanned vehicles to launch remotely operated automobiles to public roads. Members of the committee on economy, investment and entrepreneurship approved the project of the law On Development of Innovative Transport Technologies on 12 February — the State Duma’s speaker Vyacheslav Volodin personally asked his Tatarstan colleagues to prepare key features, as the republic had been testing Yandex.Taxi unmanned vehicles for over 1,5 years within a federal experiment. Earlier, the analogous bill of the LDPR was rejected, which left the sector up in the air.
On Vyacheslav Volodin’s instructions
Tatarstan developed a federal bill regulating the launch of unmanned vehicles to public roads of Russia on its own. Key features of the documents were presented at a meeting of the Committee on Economy, Investment and Entrepreneurship of the Tatarstan State Council on 12 February. Moreover, it wasn’t Tatarstan that wanted to eliminate legislative barriers to develop unmanned vehicles, as it had happened in legal practice, but it was offered to do it.
This time the relay baton with the right to present a legislative initiative was given to the republic directly from the federal authorities. Before a discussion of the federal bill, head of the committee Lutfulla Shafigullin reminded the audience that personally Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin pleaded with Farid Mukhametshin to create it.
“He asked to introduce an offer in the form of a legislative initiative to the State Duma to create a legal basis to develop innovative vehicles,” Lutfulla Shafigullin explained.
It is hard to say it will be painlessly be approved in the State. At least the authors themselves aren’t sure their initiative will be welcomed and just shrug.
A group of scientists and engineers of KAMAZ PJSC, which spends a lot of money on R&D of unmanned lorries, as well as Smart Transport Systems Scientific Centre, Road Traffic Safety Public State Entity and the city administration of Innopolis developed the federal law. Marat Galeyev coordinated and led the general process, Shafigullin said.
According to him, nowadays the bill has officially been introduced to the Tatarstan State Council. In case of its approval at the next session of the parliament on 20 February, the document will be sent to the State Duma as a legislative initiative of the Tatarstan State Council, he added.
Riftkat Minnikhanov: 10-15 years behind by standards
Why is it necessary to adopt the law right now? The authors of the Tatarstan version of the bill consider that it is important not to oversleep and stimulate the development of many by-laws, which impede unmanned vehicles from driving on roads.
“If regulations in the field of autonomous transport aren’t adopted, the development pace of ITS and CAV can be lost. Both economic losses and chronic dependence on foreign manufacturers are inevitable,” head of Road Traffic Safety Rifkat Minnikhanov expressed fears.
He said that the international association InterITS was created under the aegis of the agency, which united representatives of the state, science and businesses. “We drove an unmanned shuttle abroad in 2010 — it was surprising for us. But we catch up fast. KAMAZ created a shuttle that was operated by remote control. This area was ranked as state policy in the West, while we don’t even have a state structure that would chair it,” Minnikhanov, who is famous for being an advocate of progressive technologies, complained.
Innovative Development Director at KAMAZ PJSC Firdaus Kabirov stated that the company anyway depended on foreign suppliers to develop innovative machines. According to him, electric cars that are supplied to Moscow were completely made of foreign spare parts. He assumes that a new market of spare parts for electric vehicles is expected by 2050, and one should get ready for it. On the one hand, he offers to oblige carriers to switch to innovative vehicles, as they don’t want to purchase vehicles with options, which raises the value by 30-50,000 rubles.
No need after money is spent?
“Many ask if it isn’t early to develop a law. It is important not to be late here,” Marat Galeyev claimed confidently. He expressed a fear that without legislative regulations and rules “fans of cars without standards” would appear on roads and “complicate the situation”.
“It will mean that money was wasted in some areas, there might be deadlock when money was spent on one area, and then it will turn out that it was not needed. Anything can happen. This is why it is necessary to develop state standards, regulations, different norms. This law is to lay the foundation for this work and accelerate it. It is dangerous to launch vehicles without it,” Galeyev noted.
According to him, the federal bill was an outline, without details. “It determines the concept that is linked to smart transport systems. It describes the power of federal authorities. They are obliged to determine an authorised body that will coordinate this work. Here he agreed with Rifkat Minnikhanov’s statements that “we have a big disorder, we don’t have a coordinating body. And it is a big obstacle”.
Who is held accountable for road accidents?
At the same time, Marat Galeyev considers that the bill includes “in fact, revolutionary transformations” and must ensure both safe use and economic profit. “Engineering says this is possible. Seven unmanned lorries are used in Germany — one lorry ahead has a driver. The traffic density is higher, which means traffic will be bigger,” he evaluated the future profit. As for civil responsibility in case of a road accident, he said that the bill includes an operator’s responsibility for remote control of an unmanned vehicle.
The owner will be responsible for a car’s inspection and its good state, insurance is obligatory. “It will be special insurance because the equipment is more expensive than the car itself. In case of an insured loss, some of three sides will have to be held accountable — the owner, operator or driver”. Later, in a talk with Realnoe Vremya, he admitted that “the problem turned out to be much more complex than it seemed at first sight”:
“Autopilot in the sky is easier than on the road. An animal can pop up on the road, a pit can appear, the weather can change. Some hackers can interfere. It means information protection is needed. It means additional costs. Specialists said at an international conference in Innopolis that engineering issues were resolved. Like hell! There is a pile of issues. In any case, the future lies with it.”
Yandex is ready to drive
It should be reminded that Tatarstan Moscow has been participating in a federal experiment according to the government’s decree No. 1415 within which unmanned cars have had a possibility of driving in a general flow of cars since summer 2018. Yandex.Taxi operates in Innopolis. “Yandex unmanned cars have covered over 165,000 kilometres in Innopolis streets since August 2018. They haven’t violated the road traffic code, neither have they participated in road accidents,” head of IT Department at Innopolis Development Fund ANO Stanislav Yefimov said. He says that a fourth of citizens use the free taxi, about 40 trips are made a day. However, the agreement with Yandex expires this summer. It will probably be extended to 2021, Yefimov supposes. “With the current technology development pace, Yandex will be ready to perform this task for 3-5 years. But the introduction of unmanned technologies to everyday life requires not only technological development but also regulation. Now Yandex’s technology is ready for full-fledged commercial use in small towns,” he assured.
It should be added that the Tatarstan bill is replacing the failed attempt of the LDPR made at legalising unmanned vehicles. Last summer they introduced a bill On Test Use of Innovative Transport Vehicles. However, it was rejected, Marat Galeyev said. This bill was criticised due to a too low insurance payment in case of a road accident with an unmanned vehicle. Public activists snickered saying “after this bill is adopted, tests will officially be done on Russians. If something goes wrong, you, your children and relatives will be guilty, not a Yandex programmer who made a mistake and missed out a bug in the programme”.