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New Automated driving legislation: Germany legalises L3 technology that allows “eyes-off” the road

  • Current ADAS Level 2 systems assist but do not substitute the driver, i.e. provide longitudinal and lateral assistance enabling some limited hands-off driving but drivers must always be in control -due to regulation and system capabilities
  •  L3 systems, enabling the car to take control of the driving and monitoring task, will hit the road this year but are subject to regulatory approval
  • Amendment of the German Road Traffic Act opens up the road for L3 in Germany but compliance with EU law is also required

Germany wants to be in the forefront of Autonomous driving (testing and deployment) ahead of the U.S. therefore it has amended the German Road Traffic Act (Straßenverkehrsgesetz, StVG) to allow domestic car manufacturers, which already are closer to L3, to deploy their systems in the market.

In April, the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, approved the version therefore the only part missing for the amendment of the StVG to come into force was approval from the upper chamber of the German parliament, the Bundesrat. This came in May 12th, earlier than initially expected, removing the regulatory barrier for Audi who plans to deliver the first-ever L3 Traffic Jam Pilot in its updated version of the flagship A8.

Level 3 (SAE) vehicle automation represents a milestone in Autonomous Driving because when these features are active they can take over the monitoring task, together with the driving task, enabling drivers to take their “eyes-off” the road. But the driver must always be available to takeover, since he/she are the ultimate back-up. In case the driver is incapacitated and unable to take back control, adequate robustness must be in place to bring the vehicle into a safe stop, initially in lane.

To learn how Level 3 changes the driving task and how carmakers plan to get there read our post: Volvo to skip Level 3.

Today, even the most innovative ADAS systems for driving and parking, such as Mercedes’s Drive Pilot, Tesla’s Autopilot and BMW’s Remote Control Parking are classified under SAE’s definition as Level 2-Assistive. This means, that they can assist but cannot substitute the driver who must always be in control.

Figure: Volvo’s L3 Intellisafe Autopilot allows hands-off and eyes-off (Source: Volvo)Volvo_Autonomous_driving

L3-Conditional automation to be legal in Germany from Sep’17 requiring EDRs-AD and compliance with UN-EU regs

Initially, this legislation was expected to pass Parliament before federal elections in September 2017, a timeline that aligns with the introduction of the L3-Traffic Jam Pilot from Audi in the 2018MY A8. However, the approval occurred earlier than expected demonstrating the German government’s willingness to promote the domestic market as the leader in Automated Driving which promises a zero-road death future and to unlock time for drivers to focus on other tasks beside driving while commuting.

The amendment of national traffic laws, together with the amendment of international Reg.79 which is expected to come into force by Oct’18, will open up the road for “hands-off and eyes-off” L3 (but not L4 yet). However, many issues remain open with the most important being what exactly will drivers be allowed to do in L3 and the specifications of data recording and sharing capabilities for Event Data Recorders (EDR) which will assist in determining liability when an accident occurs while the L3 system was driving.

Deployment of L3 in Germany would be possible under the new framework, but also provided that systems are compliant with UNECE regulations (e.g. Reg.79 or an exemption is granted) and EDRs (for L3) are fitted for accident reconstruction and claims.

EDR requirements for L3 are immature yet, with more information is expected to come before the finalisation of the law. Minimum requirements from the German draft law include recording of lateral control, system active status, and handover requests for accident reconstruction and insurance claims. Data must be available to relevant road traffic authorities upon request, as well as to any third party. From conversations with Tier 1s, we understand that EDRs for TJP are probably developed in-house by other OEMs rather than in collaboration with suppliers.

Audi to get a head start, other leading premium German OEMs and Tesla to follow

This gives an advantage to Audi since the brand’s launch date for L3-TJP with the new 2018MY A8 is in line with the law coming into force in Sep’17. Audi’s system will probably be categorised as ACSF B2 but we expect the brand to use EU’s Article 20 to get an exemption for the new technology.

Figure: Audi L3 Piloted Driving (Source: Audi)Audi TJP

We expect that other German-based OEMs which are technologically closer to L3 will also benefit, with BMW and Mercedes-Benz being the obvious candidates. Tesla will also benefit since it claims that it is close to L3 (Self-driving functionality). However, the company has been asked by the German government to change its Autopilot naming to avoid customer confusion and misuse/abuse.

The transition from driver-centric regulation to Automated Driving Systems is necessary for the deployment of higher levels of vehicle autonomy

The problem arises from the fact that vehicle regulation and national traffic laws have been developed with the driver in mind, i.e. driver in control. From a technological perspective, we have now reached the point where in certain markets the amendment of regulation is needed to allow Automated Driving Systems to take conditional and eventually full control of the driving task and monitoring of the road.

At the same time, national traffic laws might need to change to accommodate the new driving conditions, e.g. allow the complete absence of driving controls for L4/L5 or driver for L5. Amendments are in progress, to allow the driver to be ‘’out of the loop’’.

But will there be regional inconsistences between what’s legal given that the regulatory landscape in the U.S is different than the rest of the world’s major car markets?

To read more about Autonomous Driving regulation check our report Roadmap to Self-Driving Cars. For more information on this report, including sample pages and full Table of Contents, please contact us on (+44) (0)20 3286 4562 or using Contact us form