Just recently, we reported that the Bundesrat has given the green light for the ordinance regulating autonomous driving. However, the heads of the federal states have a number of requests for adjustments that are not yet addressed, or are addressed only inadequately, in the original version from the Federal Ministry of Transport. These include, among other things, a per mille limit.
Self-driving cars soon on German roads
The Bundesrat’s decision is more than groundbreaking for Germany as an automotive location. After all, with their “yes” to an ordinance for autonomous driving, the minister presidents of the 16 German states have made it clear in principle that self-driving vehicles should be permitted in Germany. The corresponding ordinance, which was initiated by the Federal Ministry of Transport, received the body’s approval on May 20, 2022. However, one must rather speak of a “Yes, but…” here. After all, the heads of the federal states requested a number of changes, which the Ministry of Transport must now implement for the final version. Otherwise, the regulation can not come into force.
No “ghost cars” for now
When you think of autonomous driving cars, scenes from science fiction movies automatically jump into some people’s heads. Politicians are a bit more realistic about it. Even though many vehicles would already be capable of doing so, federal policymakers are planning a slow but safe transition to the new standard of autonomous driving. In practice, this means that self-driving minibuses used to transport passengers, for example, will no longer need a so-called safety driver. This would sit behind the wheel to be able to intervene if necessary. Instead, it will suffice under the regulation if there is a technical supervisor on board. This person must be able to assist the AI in an emergency, but not necessarily be behind the wheel. Furthermore, self-driving cars can only be operated within a defined operating range. Which one that is, the municipality determines.
Support in determining the operating areas
And this is where the Bundesrat would like to push through a little more freedom on the part of the states and municipalities. After all, they are supposed to be the best judges of which areas are suitable and which are unsuitable. The ordinance thus represents a major leap forward compared with the status quo, but for the time being there will be no cars that manage entirely without a supervisor. The Council of the Länder also sees a need for changes to the so-called technical inspection. According to the current version of the regulation, this should take place before each individual journey. According to the unanimous opinion of the heads of the federal states, this is too cumbersome. Instead, they want to insist that one departure check per day is sufficient. There also seems to be a need for discussion on the role of the individual municipalities.
From the point of view of the country committee, smaller municipalities in particular lack the technical know-how to be able to determine operating areas. After all, a wide variety of factors must be taken into account when making this determination. Here, the states would like to see more support from the federal government. The states also emphasize that the technical requirements of the vehicles must be such that they can participate in road traffic at least in the same way as cars driven by humans. This is particularly important when it comes to recognizing traffic signs. In this context, the heads of the federal states emphasize that even subsequent changes to traffic signs must be reliably detected. These safety concerns can, of course, be understood.
Alcohol ban also for autonomous driving
Just because technical supervision will most likely only have to intervene in exceptional cases with self-driving vehicles, it is nevertheless of great importance. After all, in an emergency it averts dangers to the life and limb of the occupants. Accordingly, the states believe that a per mille limit should also be introduced for technical supervision. However, it is doubtful whether this will be as strict as for vehicle drivers. After all, from the point of view of traffic experts, the technical supervisor is not a person in the sense of a vehicle driver. The direct influence is too different for that. However, the question of a suitable per mille limit will have to be clarified.