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Moscow to build driverless tram network as part of big autonomous transport push

The Deputy Mayor of Moscow, Maksim Liksutov, has unveiled a local government plan to build a new driverless tram network in Russia’s capital city.

The initiative appears to be part of a larger move towards autonomous transport of several other modes, including mainline network trains and robotic taxis, or “robotaxis”.

Driverless trams may be launched in testing mode in Moscow from the end of 2022 to the beginning of 2023.

Liksutov, the Deputy Mayor of Moscow for Transport, made the announcement at the discussion Robots in the City: The Future of Megacities with Autonomous Transport, held by the Noôdome community in Moscow. 

Liksutov outlines that, in terms of legislation, everything is done to ensure that driverless transport appears as quickly as possible.

Liksutov says: “The Government of Moscow supports modern Russian-made driverless technologies. We believe in their future, but it is a matter of 10-15 years. It will be great if safe and reliable technologies come sooner.”

As far as driverless transport is concerned, Moscow primarily relies on the rail public transport. Moscow together with Yandex work on the driverless tram project, planned to be tested since 2022 – at first, at depots, later at nights, and finally – with passengers. 80 percent of tram lines are already segregated from other road users.

Driverless technologies might be implemented on other types of transport as well: on the Moscow Central Circle (MCC), Russian Railways plan to reduce headway to 3 minutes or less thanks to automated control technologies.

Liksutov says: “In Moscow Metro, the headway of trains during rush hour is 80-90 seconds. There is yet no company in Russia that can offer a solution to ensure such headways in driverless mode. We know that developments are underway, and we are very interested in them.”

Moreover, Sergey Sobyanin, the Mayor of Moscow, decided to support the projects for the development of driverless taxis.

The Moscow City Duma, the legislative body of Moscow, also approved the proposal to introduce an experimental legal regime for testing driverless taxis in the capital.

It has already been decided that Yandex driverless taxis will be launched on some routes soon.

Moscow authorities say that, among other things, “driverless transport can solve the problem of the shortage of drivers for urban transport. Given that the transition to driverless cars will be smooth, taxi drivers and couriers will not be out of work. Retraining and requalification programs will be launched”.

Liksutov added that it is crucial to ensure the safety of passengers and pedestrians that must be a priority. That is why the city of Moscow helps with street inspections, provide online information about the movement of the public transport.

Besides, “strict rules” have been developed to regulate the data transfer concerning the movement of driverless transport, and the interaction of institutions when carrying out pilot projects.

Maksim Liksutov says: “On the instructions of Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, we are among the first to introduce the latest technologies and services in transport, including Face Pay, a virtual Troika smart card, the city app based on the MaaS principles, and the transition to electric buses.

“However, it should be understood that there will be no driverless transport boom in the near future, but we believe that urban transport can become the driving force. A driverless tram – this future is realistic.

“All this is included in Moscow’s transport program, and we are waiting for the latest Russian-made solutions and are ready to work with them in the city.”

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