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Bundestag passed legal framework for autonomous driving

Amendments to the Road Traffic Act in Germany should enable the use of level four autonomous driving systems on public roads.

Driverless cars should be able to participate in road traffic in Germany next year already.  In accordance to a law passed recently by the Bundestag, autonomous vehicles of the so-called level four should then be allowed to drive on certain specified routes in regular operation on public road traffic. However, the Bundesrat, the upper chamber of the parliament, must also give its consent.

With fully automated level four driving, the computer can take full control of the car for certain applications without being monitored by a human driver. In emergencies, the system should also bring the vehicle to a stop on the roadside. According to the Ministry of Transport, this technology could be used for shuttle connections or freight transport.

Some regulatory steps were already taken by the Ministry in 2017.  On June 21, 2017, the law on automated driving (eighth amendment to the Road Traffic Act – Straßenverkehrsgesetz) came into force. The core of the change were the changed rights and obligations of the vehicle driver during the automated driving phase. Automated systems (level 3) were allowed to take over the driving task under certain conditions. However, a driver who could turn away from the traffic situation and the vehicle control in the automated mode was still necessary.

Now, the next step is being made.  With the new law on autonomous driving, the Ministry of Transport wants to create the legal framework so that level four autonomous vehicles 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 application scenarios would include, e.g.:

  • Shuttle traffic from A to B,
  • People movers (buses that travel on a specified route),
  • Hub2Hub transport (e.g. between two distribution centers),
  • The transport of people and / or goods on the first or last mile,


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