Germany’s Self-Driving Cars Legislation May Be the Best One so Far

As you may already know, some of the world’s largest car companies are in Germany. Volkswagen and BMW are just a couple of them.

At the beginning of April, Chancellor Angela Merkel told automakers that the government was ready to support the development of this industry.

She also said that they would be able to test the self-driving cars on the German roads pretty soon and remove the legal barriers.

Fast forward to the middle of May, and we can see that Merkel kept her word.

In this article, I will walk you through the German autonomous vehicles legislation.

Car Makers Can Now Test Self-Driving Cars on the German Roads

This is a huge victory for Europe and the autonomous vehicle industry.

For the German car manufacturers, this is an even bigger win because they don’t have to send their cars to the US anymore. Before this law, they needed to transport their self-driving vehicles and test them in California.

The upper house of the German parliament has approved the law that regulates autonomous driving in the country for the next two years.

The legislation will be revised in two years in order to cover issues that were not addressed in this version. Also, the newest technological developments will be taken into consideration and data that has been collected until that point.

Now, let’s see what the law is all about.

What You Need to Know about Germany’s Self-Driving Cars Legislation

1. The driver

The law states that a driver must be present at all times when the self-driving vehicle is in motion. At the same time, they will also have to be prepared to take control of the car in any given situation.

They should be ready to react as soon as possible if the computer tells them to take over.

This means that the driver can check perform tasks which don’t require too much concentration, such as checking their emails.

2. The black-box

All the self-driving cars will have a black-box, similar to what planes have.

It will record the following aspects:

  • The journey log
  • Who was driving the car at all times – the human or the computer
  • When the computer asked the human to take over the driving.

The black-box will be essential in case an accident happens because it will record whether the driver or the system was in charge.

3. Liability

The liability in the event of an accident will be on the driver if he/she fails to react to the car’s signal to take over. However, the driver can be let off the hook if it will be proven that the vehicle system failed.

In that case, the car manufacturer will be at fault.

The Ministry of Justice was somewhat reluctant to including this new set of rules. It considered that a human driver should control the car at all times, and not a computer. 

Germany Is Pragmatic but Balanced

Germany is acting cautious with this law and managed to create a good balance between the requirements of car manufacturers and people’s needs.

The legislation is a huge benefit for the German automakers.

Now that they can do it on home turf, future developments may be able to happen much faster.

Even if California is more advanced when it comes to testing self-driving vehicles, the law is not as straightforward. This means that Germany is already one step before the US.

Germany has proved with this legislation that things can and will move fast in this industry. The next step would be to see where we will be two years from now when the law will be revisited.

Even though autonomous vehicles are expected to hit the roads by 2020, they will depend mostly on the legislation and how open will countries become when it comes to self-driving vehicles laws.

We’ll just have to see whether the laws will be on the car’s manufacturers side or not at that time.

Philipp Kandal