Tesla Autopilot, along with other driver-assistance suites, is set for extended testing in Sweden after the country’s government has decided to abolish the time limit for experimental activities with self-driving vehicles.
After a meeting between government officials on Thursday, Sweden’s public officials decided that it was time to do away with the idea that self-driving test projects should have a time limit before they were to be scrapped.
The development could be monumental for companies that have cars with driver assistance packages, Tesla being one of them with its notable Autopilot functionality.
“We are now creating the conditions for longer projects with self-driving cars. It is in Sweden that the technical vehicle development should be, and we should have the best conditions to be able to try new technologies and applications,” Tomas Eneroth, the Swedish Minister of Infrastructure said to Dagens Industri, who first reported the story.
Cutting off these developmental projects can be detrimental to a company whose experiments with self-driving capabilities because major breakthroughs can take years to accomplish. For example, Tesla Autopilot was first talked about publicly by Elon Musk in 2013. Seven years later, the functionality is the most advanced in the semi-autonomous sector, but it still remains a work in progress because it is always improving thanks to the drivers who use it.
Tesla Autopilot continuously improves thanks to the company’s Neural Network, which acts as a brain for when the company’s semi-autonomous functions are used. The Neural Network continually learns more about human behavior while driving, which leads to a constantly improving suite and thus becomes safer with more operation.
Sweden’s ordinance on self-driving projects having a time limit would have expired on July 1, 2022. The companies who have applied to have their projects examined by the Swedish Transport Agency did not have permission to extend studies beyond that date. As of now, this portion of the regulation will still apply.
More spaces for the possible examination of self-driving technologies will also take effect with the new bill. Ultimately, driverless tests will also be possible, provided that they can be carried out safely.
Eneroth says that the European Union should work toward an open testing infrastructure to keep up with other countries in the sector.
“We must have good testing opportunities throughout the EU to be able to meet the competition from Asia and the United States and quickly ensure that we get permanent legislation in place. It still differs between different EU countries. And there work is done to get clearer general guidelines. But Sweden must be the country with the best conditions,” he said.
The changes will officially take effect on January 1, 2021.