The regulatory approval needed for Tesla and other autonomous carmakers to bring self-driving vehicles to public roads is one step closer, with the German government announcing it has cleared the way in cabinet to draft autonomous driving laws.
In an article via the German ministry for transport and digital infrastructure, federal minister Andreas Scheuer said the new laws would see Germany become the first country in the world to regulate Level 4 autonomous driving.
There are various definitions of the different levels of autonomous driving. Most agree that Level 1 includes basic driver assist functions, and there are either 5 or 6 levels in total.
According to the German announcement, Level 4 autonomy includes the ability to navigate, steer, accelerate and brake without the presence of a driver.
“Germany will be the first country in the world to bring autonomous vehicles from its research laboratories onto the road,” said Scheuer.
“I am very pleased that the cabinet has cleared the way for our law on autonomous driving.”
The next step is to draft the new laws to be presented to federal parliament and federal council for further discussion.
The German government aims to bring the laws into regular operation by 2022, meaning that within 12 months there could be driverless cars operating there.
Tesla is one such automaker working towards implementing full self-driving (FSD) vehicles. It has already released its FSD beta software to around 1,000 drivers in the San Francisco area, and has been rolling out improvements to the software over the past four months.
These vehicles must still have a driver present and ready to take over if and when the self-driving software makes a mistake, however, beta testers report significant improvements since the beta program’s roll out in October.
In the US, the states of California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada have passed laws that allow the testing of autonomous vehicles with appropriate certification.
The new laws proposed by the German government go one step further than this, but may not see Tesla cars operating without drivers any time soon, however.
The ministry has also made clear that for now, it is only considering implementing driverless vehicles in certain conditions.
- Shuttle traffic
- People movers
- Hub2Hub transports
- Demand-oriented offers in off-peak times
- Transport of people and/or goods on the first or last mile
- “Dual mode vehicles” such as Automated Valet Parking (AVP)
Regulatory stipulations will include technical requirements for autonomous vehicles, licences for their operation, obligations of persons operating autonomous vehicles, data processing, activation of autonomous driving features and uniform methods of testing autonomous vehicles.
The ministry says it will evaluate the effects of the new autonomous driving laws after 2023, in particular through the lens of any new developments in the field and to help guide the formation of international regulations.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.