The German Bundestag (German federal parliament) is adopting a new law governing the future of autonomous driving in Germany. In the future, autonomous vehicles should be able to drive nationwide without a physically present driver in specified operating areas of public road traffic in regular operation, according to the rules in the new law.
On Thursday, May 20, 2021, the Bundestag passed a draft law designed “to amend the Road Traffic Act and the Compulsory Insurance Act – Act on Autonomous Driving” (19/27439 ). The vote was based on an opinion of the Federal Council (19/28178 ) and a recommendation for a resolution by the Committee on Transport and Digital Infrastructure (19/29875 ). Furthermore, for the first time, the MPs submitted an application by the FDP entitled “Handling vehicle data for innovation, safety and mobility in the 21st century” (19/29755 ). The submission has been referred to the responsible transportation committee.
Creating a legal framework for autonomous driving in Germany
The German Federal Government believes that further steps must be taken to introduce corresponding systems into regular operation so that the potential of these technologies can be exploited and society can participate in them. This decision follows on from the previous legal requirements of the Eighth Law on Amending the Road Traffic Act for the operation of motor vehicles with highly and fully automated driving functions. The government believes that there is a need to go beyond the testing of autonomous, driverless vehicles that is already possible in public road traffic and to initiate their regular operation.
First of all, according to the template, autonomous vehicles should be able to be used in defined operating areas. The new regulation would enable autonomous driving to be used in various areas. This includes use in public passenger transport within the municipalities. There various passenger transport needs to be covered with small and large vehicles. Within municipal areas, opportunities for business and supply trips also an option along with logistics.
Regulating the construction and condition of AVs
The new law is intended to re-regulate the technical requirements for the construction, condition and equipment of motor vehicles with autonomous driving functions – as well as the testing and the procedure for the issuing of an operating license for motor vehicles with autonomous driving functions by the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA). The handling of the data required for operation is also regulated.
In addition, the term “technical supervision” was defined in the initial legislation. According to the German Federal Government, this person must be a “live” person who can deactivate or release driving maneuvers of a motor vehicle with autonomous driving function from outside the vehicle. Liability insurance is mandated for technical supervision, which provides a clear line of responsibility for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles.
Against this background, the MPs are calling on the federal government to present a mobility data law that defines the framework for the processing of non-personal data that is generated in vehicles. In particular, the clarification of the citizens’ rights of use to this data, questions of liability, possible access needs of private providers and state bodies as well as the interests of the companies and developers concerned should be “appropriately” taken into account.
This ruling is a positive step forward for autonomous vehicle (AV) deployment within Germany. The Germans love technology, but they also love their cars and their roads. It’s likely that other EU states will look to this ruling and follow through with similar rules governing the use of autonomous vehicles on public roads. Since all of the roads within continental Europe are connected, it will be important that AV laws are consistent across borders. In addition to the technology issues, there are numerous other, related societal issues to be resolved before AVs become a fixture on public roads.
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