German Government Decides Legal Basis for Autonomous Driving

Autonomous driving is said to be the key technology for the mobility of tomorrow. The new law creates the first legal basis for it.

Autonomous driving needs a legal foundation. The first law has now been decided in Germany. Reading the newspaper during a ride is still forbidden. Picture: Volvo

Besides electric mobility, it’s autonomous driving that is first priority on the agenda of car developers for creating the mobility of tomorrow. A great number of sensors and receiver systems are the basis for it and already allow semi-autonomous driving today. For example, a traffic jam assistant takes over the braking, accelerating and keeping the line in stop-and-go traffic. Radar-based spacer systems are able to detect preceding vehicles – even in fog. Connected cars exchange information about the traffic situation and free parking lots.

As a major part of the sensors is already built in cars for safety assistance systems, an additional function for autonomous driving can be added quite easily. The US electric pioneer Tesla pushed far ahead and calls its technology “autopilot”, whereas the traditional car manufacturers don’t think that these systems are already fit for everyday use.

The colleague “computer” takes over

With the new regulation, another aspect of autonomous driving is legally secured. End of January, the German government adopted a new law that describes the legal equalisation of human drivers and computers. Automated driving systems are now allowed to take over driving. For the first time, it is legally allowed that the driver takes his hands off the steering wheel and hands it over to a computer. He only has to take over again when the system asks him to do so. Criticisms of the law came from the opposition who thinks that the formulation of the regulation is not precise enough, with regard to the following passage: “The driver is obligated to immediately take over the steering of the vehicle in case he detects or has to detect due to obvious circumstances, that the conditions for highly or fully automated driving are not given anymore.”

The literal interpretation of this sentence says that the driver can leave driving to the computer at any moment, but at the same time, he always has to be fully concentrated on the traffic events for being able to react immediately. Hence, reading the newspaper while the car drives you to the office is not allowed yet.

Read more: What consumers expect from autonomous cars


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