How close are we to autonomous vehicles

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Federal Minister Andreas Scheuer:

Germany will be the first country in the world to bring autonomous vehicles from research laboratories onto the road - today we have come a decisive step closer to this goal. I am very pleased that the cabinet has cleared the way for our autonomous driving law. The draft is now being sent to the Bundestag and Bundesrat for further discussion. We need rapid implementation for the innovations in the transformation process. I am sure that we will come to groundbreaking agreements here too, so that Germany can continue to be the number 1 international leader in autonomous driving.

Germany should take a leading role in autonomous driving. In order to make optimal use of the great potential of autonomous and networked driving, the Federal Government wants to promote research and development and thus make the mobility of the future more versatile, safer, more environmentally friendly and more user-oriented.

The BMVI is working intensively on further improving the framework conditions: On June 21, 2017, the law on automated driving (amendment of the Road Traffic Act) came into force. The core of this was the changed rights and obligations of the vehicle driver during the automated driving phase. That means: Automated systems (level 3) may take over the driving task under certain conditions. However, a driver is still necessary.

Now the next step follows: With the new law on autonomous driving, we want to create the legal framework so that autonomous vehicles (level 4) can drive in regular operation in specified operating areas in public road traffic - nationwide.

  • This would make Germany the first country in the world to bring vehicles without a driver from research into everyday life.
  • The aim is to bring vehicles with autonomous driving functions into regular operation by 2022.

Flexibility is in the foreground with the law: The operation of driverless vehicles should be made possible for a maximum number of application scenarios. Only locally limited to a specified operating area, the different applications should not be conclusively regulated in advance. Individual permits, exceptions and requirements such as the presence of a security driver who is always ready to intervene would henceforth be unnecessary.

The application scenarios include:

  • Shuttle traffic,
  • People movers,
  • Hub2Hub transports,
  • demand-oriented offers in off-peak times,
  • the transport of people and / or goods on the first or last mile,
  • “Dual mode vehicles” such as Automated Valet Parking (AVP).

The law is intended to regulate the following issues, among others:

  • Technical requirements for the construction, quality and equipment of motor vehicles with autonomous driving functions,
  • Examination and procedure for the issuing of an operating license for vehicles with autonomous driving functions by the Federal Motor Transport Authority,
  • Regulations with regard to the obligations of the persons involved in the operation of vehicles with an autonomous driving function,
  • Regulations relating to data processing when operating vehicles with autonomous driving functions,
  • Enabling the (subsequent) activation of automated and autonomous driving functions of already type-approved vehicles ("sleeping functions"),
  • Furthermore, adaptation and creation of uniform regulations to enable testing of automated and autonomous vehicles.

Federal Minister Andreas Scheuer (dpa, October 27, 2020):

Germany becomes world leader in autonomous driving. We are setting the pace for this: With our new law, we are becoming an international pioneer and putting an end to cumbersome individual permits. We now want autonomous cars and buses that take passengers to their destination exactly as needed - and then park themselves in the parking garage. It's not just convenient, it's safe. Nine out of ten accidents happen because people make mistakes. Mostly because they're distracted. Self-driving cars, on the other hand, are controlled by a computer. He doesn't get distracted or gets tired.

At the same time, the automotive industry should intensify its efforts towards autonomous driving. As agreed at the third meeting of the “Concerted Mobility Action” on September 8th, 2020, the industry intends to make consistent use of the testing opportunities in Germany to make automated and autonomous vehicles “tangible” - especially in rural areas.

The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure will evaluate the effects of the law after the end of 2023 - especially with a view to the developments in the field of autonomous driving and the updating of international regulations as well as the compatibility with data protection regulations. The German Bundestag will be informed of the results.

International Legislation

The autonomous driving law is an interim solution until there are harmonized regulations at international level. With a view to harmonized markets and standards, Germany has a great interest in creating higher-level rules. The BMVI will make every effort to further develop the legal framework at EU and UNECE level.

Germany is already an international innovation driver: Thanks to a German initiative, the Level 3 lane keeping system (ALKS - Automated Lane Keeping System) up to 60 kilometers per hour on motorways, which can be used in traffic jams, for example, has been adopted at the UN level. Work is currently underway on the expansion of the UN regulation on ALKS, also with active German participation. The aim is to enable an increase in speed of up to 130 kilometers per hour and the ability of the system to change lanes.

To the schedule:

  • The draft law was approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 and then forwarded to the German Bundestag and Bundesrat for further consideration.
  • The EU notification procedure has also already been initiated.
  • The first reading in the Bundestag took place on March 25, 2021.
  • The plenary session of the Federal Council dealt with the draft law for the first time on March 26, 2021.
  • The law is to be passed by mid-2021 with the approval of the Federal Council.

Federal Minister Andreas Scheuer (Handelsblatt, 10.09.2020):

It is precisely through this approach that we want to become the number one innovation location. Our proposed legislation will bring the German automotive industry to the fore in the world of autonomous driving.

Levels of vehicle automation

  • Partially automated driving (level 2): This is the state of the art today. The applications that the car can take over are becoming more and more complex - even if the driver continues to monitor the system and the environment continuously and has to take control again at any time. These applications include, for example, automatic parking or motorway assistance systems. When overtaking, for example, the motorway assistant takes over the automatic lateral and longitudinal guidance up to a certain speed and within certain limits (lane keeping possible).
  • Highly automated driving (level 3): The cars take over for defined applications, e.g. B. when driving on motorways, independently driving performance such as braking, steering, changing lanes or overtaking. The drivers are allowed to temporarily turn away from driving and the traffic, e.g. to take care of the children in the back seat. If a situation can no longer be dealt with automatically, the driver is asked to take over again. The technical regulation required for level 3 was adopted at the UN level with active German participation in June 2020 and came into force on January 22, 2021. The function may only be activated on motorways and is limited to a maximum driving speed of 60 km / h. Work is currently underway to expand the UN regulation on automatic steering assistants (ALKS). The aim is to enable an increase in speed of up to 130 kilometers per hour and the ability of the system to change lanes.
  • Fully automated driving (level 4): With the appropriate design, the system can take full control of defined applications as in level 3 and then no longer has to be monitored by a physically present driver. That means: the system takes over the complete vehicle control; the vehicle occupants are only passengers. If the automation mode has to be exited, the system asks the driver or external technical supervisor to take over. If there is no response, the system can independently (unlike level 3) put the vehicle in a low-risk state (for example, bring it to a standstill on the hard shoulder). Passengers can also initiate an emergency stop at any time.
  • Autonomous driving (level 5): The vehicle moves without a driver, monitoring is no longer necessary. The vehicle also masters complex situations, such as at intersections or pedestrian crossings, on its own. Trips without passengers are also possible.