Germany’s Bundestag Approves Self-Driving Vehicle Use, Bundesrat Approval Still Needed

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Germany’s lower parliamentary house, the Bundestag, has approved the regular use of self-driving vehicles and features in the country, according to reports. As the country relies on a bicameral parliament, though, the upper house known as the Bundesrat will apparently also have to approve the legislation, and the executive branch will have to as well, before the law can be changed.

The coalition forces that are backing the legalization of self-driving vehicles — composed of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Christian Democratic Union (CSU) — are reportedly confident that approval will be forthcoming.

The law (as quoted in translation by Teslarati) reads: “During vehicle driving, the driver may turn away from traffic and vehicle control by means of highly automated or fully automated driving function … (but must) immediately (assume control) if he recognizes that the conditions for the intended use of the highly or fully automated driving functions no longer exist … even if he does not control the vehicle in the context of the intended use of this function.”

So, people will seemingly be responsible for whatever the self-driving vehicle/tech providers are unwilling to explicitly take responsibility for. It’ll be interesting to see where different auto manufacturers draw the line of liability.

The Teslarati coverage provides more: “The driver must retain the capacity to reassume control as well as to deactivate the control system. All vehicles with autonomous driving systems would have a ‘black box’ data storage system, which would assist in determining fault in the event of an accident. … The approved revision states that the owner of the car is still liable for actions taken while under autonomous mode, as prescribed by section 7 of the Road Traffic Act (Hazard Liability). … The new German law supersedes the 1968 ‘Vienna Convention on Road Traffic,’ which specified that human drivers must have full control over their vehicle at any time.

“Tensions were high immediately preceding the vote, according to Germany’s newspaper, which described the level of autonomy to be permitted as ‘highly automated and fully automatic vehicles.’ SPD deputy Kirsten Lühmann accusing the body of assigning drivers the roles of ‘experimental rabbits for new technology.'”

The Green Party deputy, Stephan Kühn, complained about the law as well: “It is not enough just to formulate in the justification of the legal text what the driver is allowed to do without worry while the computer is driving the car. This must be re-written into the law itself.”

The legislation originated with German Federal Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt (CSU) unsurprisingly — Dobrindt long being an advocate of the tech.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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