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Germany opens roads to autonomous vehicles

The German parliament has passed a law which allows Level 4 autonomous cars to use public roads for the first time.

This is a big step forward for autonomous vehicles, with Germany the first country in the world to allow cars with this high-level autonomy onto the roads. Japan currently allows Level 3 cars while the UK allows Level 2, which includes features such as lane-keep assist and automatic parking. Until now self-driving permits across the world have only been allowed for testing purposes.

Autonomous cars are classified according to six levels. Level 0 includes traditional vehicles with no autonomous controls whatsoever. Level 1 encompasses basic help such as automatic emergency braking and lane control; Level 2 adds automatic steering, acceleration and braking in limited situations. Level 4, described as ‘High automation’ can assume all driving tasks under nearly all conditions without any driver attention. A passenger can take over driving if the self-driving systems are unable to continue, but a human driver is not required by law – in Level 3, a human driver must remain behind the wheel.

“The BMF have watched the development of autonomous vehicles with great concern for years now, and will continue to do so. We have participated in European Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (EU C-ITS) working groups, where the commercial pressure for autonomous was enormous, especially from Big Tech companies & their representatives, our representatives, particularly Anna Zee as Political, Technical Services (PTS) director manged to get motorcycles specifically included in the development criteria.’ said BMF Chair Jim Freeman. “It’s vital that any autonomous driving technology is fail-safe, to take account of vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists. We don’t want a situation, for example, where we cannot use all the road network, which we pay for, with dedicated ‘autonomous only’ zones. The issue of legal responsibility is massive, who carries that responsibility at high levels of autonomy, the user or the manufacturer?”

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Written by Peter Henshaw