Estonian researchers test a self-driving car at the Rally Estonia test stage

Estonian researchers from the University of Tartu and rideshare provider Bolt tested a self-driving car at the Rally Estonia test stage on 4 September; the vehicle became the world’s first self-driving car to successfully drive at the official World Rally Championship rally stage.

“The goal of the test drive was to complete the rally stage without the safety driver intervening,” the Estonian-founded rideshare services provider, Bolt, said in a statement.

“The pilot had to take over on a few occasions due to the track being damaged by the preceding rally drivers, but the car was able to make its way through the majority of the track on its own accord.”

A Lexus-based Estonian self-driving test car, developed by the University of Tartu and rideshare provider Bolt, took part in the Rally Estonia test stage.

“Self-driving technology is generally developed and tested in good traffic conditions: on smooth roads and in sunny weather. Rally Estonia was a great opportunity to test the technology in difficult conditions, it was a good test before moving on to testing in city traffic,” Rain Johanson, the vice president of engineering at Bolt, said.

Glad to accept the rally track challenge

According to Anne Jääger, the head of the Autonomous Driving Lab at the University of Tartu, the main goal of the cooperation project between Bolt and the university is to test self-driving technology in urban traffic.

“Still, we were glad to accept the challenge to try it out on a rally track,” she added.

A Lexus-based Estonian self-driving test car, developed by the University of Tartu and rideshare provider Bolt, in a lab.

The Autonomous Driving Lab of the University of Tartu conducts research and development in the field of self-driving technologies. The lab focuses primarily on the software side of self-driving vehicles.

Bolt was launched as Taxify by the Estonian startup entrepreneurs, Markus and Martin Villig, in 2013. It later expanded into electric scooters and food delivery services and currently operates in over 30 countries and in more than 150 cities around the world. In 2019, Bolt became a unicorn – a startup with the valuation over USD1 billion, according to the New York City-based research firm, CB Insight.

Cover: A Lexus-based Estonian self-driving test car, developed by the University of Tartu and rideshare provider Bolt, took part in the Rally Estonia test stage. Images by Bolt.

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