Self-Driving Cars Approved for Public Tests in Germany

Germany passed a law that allows self-driving car tests on public roads. A human driver needs to be behind the wheel at all times, and the cars need to have a black box that tracks data in case of accidents.


Germany, home to some of the world’s largest car companies, has approved public roads tests of self-driving cars. Reuters first reported news of the German Federal Council green lighting the tests, saying the law will be revised in 2019 as self-driving car technology improves.

There are, of course, a number of conditions the self-driving cars must follow:

  • A human driver needs to be behind the wheel at all times and be ready to take over the wheel if needed
  • Self-driving cars need a black box, like those in airplanes, that tracks at all times whether the human or the autonomous system was driving

The law is also very clear about who will be at fault if there’s an accident, which is an on-going issue with self-driving cars. The human driver will bear responsibility for accidents that take place under his or her watch, while the the manufacturer will be responsible if the self-driving car causes the accident.

The black box will prove vital in determining responsibility during accidents. If there is an accident, the information collected by the black box will be stored for six months and handed over to law enforcement upon request.

Angela Merkel Self-Driving Car
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. (Credit: Boris Roessler/Picture Alliance/DPA/AP Images)

Companies around world are pouring billions of dollars into self-driving vehicles, including big German automakers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen. This new law will help German automakers test self-driving cars in their home country, rather than having to schlep to other parts of the world such as Silicon Valley, which leads the way in self-driving car testing.

However, earlier this week Georgia became the latest US state to legalize public road tests of self-driving cars. The bill won’t require humans in the self-driving cars to have a valid driver’s license. However, the self-driving cars must be registered as automated vehicles with the Department of Motor Vehicles, must maintain a valid insurance policy, and follow speed limits designated by local order.




About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.




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