Sofia-Thessaloniki highway becomes test route for autonomous vehicles –


Bulgaria and Greece are laying the foundations for the development of autonomous mobility in the Balkans thanks to a project partially supported by the European Union that expects to install 5G communication infrastructure along the Sofia-Thessaloniki road from here in 2025 to facilitate the use of autonomous vehicles.

The project will allow the tracking of trucks, while the development of the network will make it possible to test autonomous vehicles in real conditions, that is, vehicles capable of moving without a driver along the specified route.

Half of the €11 million investment in the Sofia-Thessaloniki 5G corridor is provided by the European Commission, Zlatina Nikolova, Deputy Minister of Transport and Information, said the rest will come from private investment from the Bulgarian and Greek mobile operators. technology, to EURACTIV during an interview.

In 2018, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia jointly signed an agreement to develop cross-border 5G test lanes for testing self-driving cars. The idea was to have the network allow even self-driving cars to pass through border controls.

In 2022, the project will start, but without Serbia’s participation. “The aim of the project is to connect Sofia with the Greek port city of Thessaloniki to develop autonomous mobility along the main transport corridors in the Balkans,” Mrs. Nikolova explained.

Bulgaria’s external border with Turkey is the busiest in the European Union, followed by Bulgaria’s border with Greece at Kolata Promahon. However, Bulgaria is not yet a member of the Schengen Area, and this border post continues to be a bottleneck for land transportation.

There were not many European projects that offered similar opportunities. With the active support of the government, a Bulgarian operator and a Greek operator started working together on this project and received a very good evaluation from the European Commission. The contract was signed last year, and we hope this will continue with transportation corridors to other neighboring countries,” said Ms. Nikolova.

The route between Sofia and Thessaloniki will be put into operation when the Bulgarian and Greek operators connect their networks, which will allow the goods to be tracked even after the truck has crossed the border.

All data recorded by the Bulgarian operator on the trucks will be automatically transmitted to Greece via the 5G mobile network, similar to mobile phones.

This is one of the first projects of this kind funded by the European Commission. UNHCR funds a total of three such projects in Europe. The idea is that developing autonomous mobility will reduce accidents and carbon emissions and increase security of supply.”explains Ms. Nikolova, adding that Bulgaria is one of the countries that are laying the foundations for independent mobility.

“We must not forget that Bulgaria is a border country, and a significant part of the movement of goods destined for the European Union passes through our territory,” specify.

The Bulgarian government already has ideas for developing similar digital corridors along the main routes to Romania and Turkey, in which mobile operators are also willing to invest.

According to government data, Bulgaria started developing its 5G network in 2020 and it already covers more than 50% of its population. This means that 300 cities and towns across the country have access to 5G, while the government focuses on using the technology along transport corridors.

In the European Union, a legal framework for fully automated vehicles with autonomous driving functions was finalized in July 2022 through the adaptation of the Certificate of Conformity Regulation, which was extended to fully automated vehicles.

[Édité par Anne-Sophie Gayet]

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