The University of Tartu and an Estonian rideshare company collaborate in self-driving vehicle development

On 21 April, the University of Tartu and Estonian-founded rideshare company Bolt signed an agreement to expand collaboration in the development of autonomous vehicle technology.

The university’s Institute of Computer Science “will considerably enlarge the autonomous driving technology research group, creating better opportunities for research, development and innovation in this field and for the practical training of students”, the university said in a statement.

The five-year agreement aims to further develop the technical capabilities of the current autonomous driving lab in the area of artificial intelligence, maps and algorithms, create better conditions for connecting technology to urban traffic infrastructures, bring more students and researchers into the field and enhance collaboration with various partners in Estonia and internationally to develop and validate new ideas. “This is the largest cooperation agreement ever concluded between Estonian universities and the private sector without external public funding,” the university said.

According to rector of the University of Tartu, Toomas Asser, the agreement is a good example of how researchers’ collaboration with businesses supports the university’s objectives. “The self-driving test car currently driving in the centre of Tartu is a good and visible example of the cooperation that has provided researchers and students of different faculties, as well as enterprises with the possibility to develop autonomous driving technology,” Asser said in a statement.

The University of Tartu’s historical campus. Photo by Kaupo Kalda.

Innovative solutions for the future

Rain Johanson, the chief technology officer at Bolt, said that ongoing cooperation with the University of Tartu was a great opportunity to develop world-class technology. “The University of Tartu has extensive knowledge, experience and means to work out and develop innovative solutions for the future. In addition, Estonia has ideal climate and supportive laws to test autonomous driving technology,” Johanson added.

Bolt is an Estonian-founded rideshare company, also offering e-scooter rental and food delivery. Founded in 2013 by Markus Villig, the company has 50 million customers in more than 40 countries.

The University of Tartu is an Estonian education institution with more than 13,500 students and over 1,600 members of academic staff. The university’s Institute of Computer Science is a unit with 1,350 students, including 70 doctoral students, and about 100 members of academic staff.

Cover: An autonomous vehicle tested by Bolt and the University of Tartu. Photo by Mathis Bogens.

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