Autonomous Vehicles – Technology and Legislation


SwissMoves is a projected skills center in Fribourg. Its major challenge is the development of homologation criteria for operating autonomous vehicles and establishing their integration into transport systems using a multitude of communications, navigation and surveillance services.

It all started in 2018 with a TPF Trafic project in collaboration with the ROSAS Center and CertX to make the Navya shuttle that serves the Marly Innovation Center autonomous. Two other projects involving TPF Trafic, CertX, ROSAS, UNIFR, HEIA-FR and HEG-FR followed with financial support from the NRP. These projects have made it possible to establish an interdisciplinary research group for autonomous mobility and to outline the future SwissMoves center.

Professor Thomas Probst from UNIFR's Private Law Department is part of the SwissMoves research group. He answers our questions:

Does the technological development of autonomous mobility go hand in hand with the development of legislation?

TP: First of all, it should be pointed out that the term "autonomous" is misleading: future vehicles will certainly depend less and less on the capabilities of drivers and increasingly on an array of technical systems (location, navigation, communication...) whose functional reliability and security (resistance to cyber-attacks) will be fundamental. Modern vehicles will therefore not be truly "autonomous". One of the challenges of automated mobility comes from the mismatch between rapid technological progress and the frequently slow implementation of legislation. Following the technological evolution of automated vehicles, we find that technical difficulties have been underestimated and it takes longer than expected to resolve them. The legislative process is underway for level 3 and 4 automated vehicles.

Will road infrastructure change significantly in the coming years to be part of a system in its own right, such as air transport?

TP: Since vehicle drivers will no longer assure all the tasks associated with driving, certain features of automation presuppose a suitable infrastructure especially with regard to communication (traffic lights will communicate their current status to vehicles; a camera indicates to the car that a pedestrian wants to cross the road). Also, depending on the vehicle’s level of automation, a "smart" infrastructure will be required for safe traffic circulation. The more complex the conditions (in the city center), the more the infrastructure will need to evolve. This coordination between the level of automation and the infrastructure also presents a challenge for the future homologation of automated cars.

SwissMoves' application areas cover road, rail and air traffic. Are the problems the same, knowing that these three areas have their own technologies and laws?

TP: The objective of automated mobility promotes a conceptual and operational rapprochement of the different modes of transport towards integrated mobility. Travelers will want transport that is on-time, comfortable at an acceptable price. The means of transport becomes less important as the combination of these different modes becomes the rule (from Marly to Zollikerberg, the traveler will take a remote-controlled shuttle, an intercity train, automated metro and a remote-controlled taxi). Although road, rail and air traffic are seen as separate modes of transport, automation poses similar problems for all three (human-machine interface, definition of automation levels). On the other hand, analysis of the three areas allows us to better understand the specifics of each one and paves the way for original approaches. For example, SwissMoves' teleoperation project, in partnership with public transport operators, is the result of a combination of air and road traffic elements.

With its SwissMoves project, can Fribourg become a major player at the national level?

TP: With its teleoperation project, SwissMoves has brought together national operators around a concept of automated mobility that meets the requirements and needs of Swiss public transport. This project is an important step towards a Swiss homologation center (SHC) for automated vehicles. Thus, the canton of Fribourg is well placed to play an essential role in this already competitive area.

Rédaction : Pascal Bovet et Marina Lucciola Traduction : Jane Fox Photo : CertX