Public Autonomous Money Aims to Attract Private Investors in Russia

Russia’s ministry of transportation has outlined its draft strategy for the support of autonomous transport for the current decade worth $6.5Bn in governmental spending.

Possibly the largest slice, roughly $3Bn, is for connected infrastructure for driverless road transport on 12,000 miles of primary roads while another $2Bn targets the fueling and charging network to adapt it for AV’s specific needs. The rest goes to unmanned aerial, rail and water transport. It is hoped the governmental funding will attract another $4.6Bn in third-party investment.

Evidently, connected infrastructure is meant to be an accelerator that will bring the AV market into a reality. This vision is the result of CAV, V2X and ITS developers, all members of the working group on the draft, who approached the task with results from their tests and pilots. In one instance, TU-Automotive earlier reported that MADI had found issues at unconnected AVs in situations of limited visibility and platooning that effect comfort and safety. In another test program, a national consortium promoting V2X found that the use of green-light optimization speed advisory (GLOSA) service saved up to 40% of energy at EVs compared to when it is not used.

In fact, connected services also give the same advantages to piloted vehicles, improving overall efficiency of investment in connectivity services. In the same test program, assistance from the connected infrastructure reduced delays of public buses and trams on intersections, saving, on average, 20 seconds per crossing.

For some of that services, regulatory framework already exists in the country and that can contribute to their accelerated uptake, said Vladimir Makarenko, business development director at Fort Telecom. One example is automatic alerts of neighboring drivers and CAVs on a tram opening doors at a stop. Others include notifications about permissible maximum weight and size of lorries at a given road section and alerts of nearby CAVs about special vehicles approaching.

The draft also confirmed Russia’s support for both ITS-G5 and C-V2X standards, a subject of TU-Automotive’s other article in March, 2020. That’s done to pacify the national connectivity system with that of both China, the C-V2X pioneer, and European Union where ITS-G5 is preferred. In Russia, a group of V2X and ITS developers partnered with the government’s technology-related agencies on a program of practical tests. Recently, the consortium claimed it has proved technical feasibility of double-standard network by running ITS-G5 and C-V2X units in adjacent channels within one bandwidth. Economically, however, supporting double-standard network is a burdensome task. “Such networks will be used only on road sections where it’s really necessary,” said Makarenko.

Intercity freight

In the draft, intercity road freight was put forward as a flagship of the future mass uptake of CAVs through establishing a network of depot-to-depot corridors. Construction work on the first of them, a 400-mile highway from Moscow and St Petersburg, is underway with regular operation due in 2024.

Jury Sushinov, press secretary at National Technological Initiative, said: “Analysis by the V2X experts show that the project will decrease frequency of road accidents and cost as well as optimize road traffic. It also predicts up to 186,000 trips by autonomous trucks as of 2024 to reach 20% of overall freight traffic between Moscow and St Petersburg.”

While transition to driverless trucks is expected to decrease road death rate by 8% in the next ten years, he said that collisions with human road users remain the main AV-related concern: “For that reason, driverless vehicles will be used on a controlled-access highway.”

The pilot will pave the way for a yet-to-be-defined network of unmanned routes. In one instance, this summer, the government held debates on a titanic project of a 4,000-mile driverless road corridor from the Chinese border to St Petersburg near the Finnish border. Should it be completed, that’d be the longest uninterrupted regular AV route on Earth, beating TuSimple’s record of 1,100 miles.

However, the theoretically strong concept can meet serious practical issues. “Until now, low freight demand has been a limitation in this route,” said Oleg Remyga, head of China unit at Skolkovo Business School. “Traffic of goods from China to Europe is evidently strong but in the opposite direction it’s much less intensive.” That would require repositioning empty trucks to China. In total, autonomous trucks’ advantages aren’t high enough to swindle the transported goods out of the RoRo vessels and freight trains.

The unmanned strategy draft emerged amidst positive expectations dominating in the market. Last August, Russian government seriously downsized support measures in a final release of its electric mobility strategy 2030 compared to May’s draft. The same change will likely happen to the final release of the unmanned strategy 2030 to be released by the year’s end.

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