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The Swedish Transport Agency paves the way for autonomous vehicles

Obtaining a permit for experiments with autonomous vehicles is far from simple. The Transport Agency is now testing a policy lab approach in order to find ways of making the process simpler for everyone involved.

The automotive industry is in a state of transition. Autonomous cars have long since left the idea stage, however, before they can be allowed out on the roads, tests in real traffic environments are necessary, something which can be quite challenging to arrange.

“In 2017, the Ordinance on Autonomous Vehicle Tests was introduced, and soon thereafter we got our own regulations at the agency, but it is not sufficient for the vehicle manufacturers to simply follow these rules,” explains Patrik Sveder, investigator at the Transport Agency.

In their application, the vehicle manufacturers and transport companies must also show that their vehicles are adapted to all other rules and laws which regulate traffic safety in Sweden.

“And it’s not easy to come from the outside and keep track of all the rules that need to be followed!” says Patrik Sveder.

Funding from Vinnova

The result has been long turnaround times during which applications must be supplemented again and again, often due to insufficient information and lack of knowledge, which has delayed pilot projects. This in turn increases the cost for the companies and delays the implementation of new technology.

In order to find a solution to the problem, Vinnova granted funding to the research institute RISE. The goal was to invite both authorities and concerned companies to participate in a dialogue, in order to see whether policy innovation could be a way out of this dilemma. The initiative was carried out within the scope of Vinnova’s work on the government collaboration programme “The next generation’s travel and transport” and the national project “KRABAT”, coordinated by the innovation programme Drive Sweden.

Knowledge of one another's problems

“Everyone wants to move forward, but we could also see that both sides had a lack of communication and competence with regard to the other’s circumstances,” says Maria Schnurr, senior researcher at RISE.

“The Transport Agency is the last body that wants to stand in the way of new technology and development, but at the same time they have a responsibility to ensure that Swedish traffic and the vehicles moving in traffic are safe. We therefore saw working in a policy lab context, which involves interacting with one another and attempting to find new ways forward, as a good solution.”

Under the leadership of RISE, the problem was studied; all actors were heard and given the opportunity to put forward their views on the matter.

“I felt that this was very positive; at the Transport Agency we felt the need to listen to and understand what the various stakeholders think and what their needs are,” says Patrik Sveder.

“These have been difficult processes for everyone involved, and it has become clear that we have not fully understood one another. Furthermore, we are in a situation where the stakeholders need help understanding our regulatory frameworks, but we can’t take on a double role as both consultant and inspector.”

Collaboration led to a smooth process

The result of the collaboration was that several participants put forward the idea that there is a need for a third, independent party which knows the regulatory framework and which can assist the vehicle manufacturers in their contact with the Transport Agency. In this way the authority would avoid becoming overwhelmed with work due to incomplete applications, and the applicants would avoid the extra costs and delays entailed by a drawn out application process.

“I think it was really good that we all got to meet and discuss these issues,” says Patrik Sveder.

“Personally, I have realised that we need to change the type of information we provide to our stakeholders in this area via our website. The hope is that we can work together and look at ways of making the process simpler and smoother for everyone involved.”

Any questions?

Do you want to know more about Vinnova’s work with policy labs? Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Jakob Hellman

Head of department

+46 8 473 31 05

Tobias Öhman

Programme manager

+46 8 473 32 17

Filip Kjellgren

Programme Manager

+46 8 473 32 36

Last updated 21 February 2019

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