Self-driving Cars in a Not so Distant Future – Jonas Bjelfvestam in Podcast

The owner should be ultimately responsible for the future of autonomous vehicles, according to Jonas Bjelfvestam, Director General of the Swedish Transport Agency. And they are coming soon, possibly within a few years.

– In the investigation, I proposed that there should be an owner’s responsibility in the situation where the vehicle is in autonomous mode. I argued that as an owner, you actually have the best overview of whether the car is in good condition, whether it concerns the tires, inspection, or updated software, says Jonas Bjelfvenstam in the Digital Influencer podcast.

Autonomous vehicles, yes, soon it may become a reality on the Swedish road network. According to Jonas Bjelfvestam, Director General of the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen), it could happen even before the next decade.

Jonas Bjelfvemstam, generaldirektör på Transportstyrelsen.
Jonas Bjelfvemstam, generaldirektör på Transportstyrelsen.

The Director General of the Swedish Transport Agency has held the position for nearly six years, with the past five years focusing on the development of autonomous vehicles.

As futuristic as it may feel, autonomous vehicles are not too far away. However, there are still many questions to be answered. Moral dilemmas and accountability are two examples where discussions are far from reaching a conclusion.

What happens in the event of an accident? Is the owner of the car responsible? The artificial driver? How will it be investigated? According to Jonas Bjelfvestam, there are possibilities to provide answers to the final question through data from the vehicle. At the same time, he says it is closely linked to owner responsibility.

One thing is clear: the question is no longer “if,” but “when” we will have autonomous vehicles on the roads in Sweden. Out of 71 applications, the Swedish Transport Agency has granted 28 for research and experimentation with autonomous vehicles. According to the Director General, this could become a reality within this decade.

– Fully automated vehicles – level four or higher, as they say in technical terms – will take many years. But I would say that already during the 2020s, we will see considerably more autonomous vehicles than we do today, on limited parts of the road network.

Before that, before the entire transport industry takes the biggest leap since the combustion engine, there is still a lot of bureaucracy to overcome. It’s a slow process.

– It is important to remember when we talk about autonomous vehicles – and not just passenger cars – that transportation is internationally regulated. We cannot regulate how a vehicle should look or how traffic regulations should work on our own. We need to work together, both at the European and international level.

Is the legislation keeping up?

– Especially from the automotive industry, there was a demand for regulations at a rapid pace. They promised large fleets of vehicles as early as the beginning of the 2020s, which would be deployed in various types of trials. As we know, it didn’t quite happen that way; it has been a bit slower. I think it’s quite good for several reasons. The first is that we have time to catch up with the regulations and consider what is wise.

Listen to the full episode of the Digital Influencer podcast here.

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