Germany leads in regulatory race for autonomous vehicles

Germany leads in regulatory race for autonomous vehicles

20. October 2021 0 By Horst Buchwald

Germany leads in regulatory race for autonomous vehicles

Berlin, 20.10.2021

Regulation of autonomous vehicles is urgently needed. However, the majority of countries avoided enacting legislation.

Meanwhile, Germany is the first country to pass AV – regulations. A draft on autonomous driving was published in early February.Merkel- Cabinet approved a bill on Feb. 10 and forwarded it to the Bundesrat and Bundestag.

The Bundestag’s Committee on Transport and Digital Infrastructure held a public hearing in early May. The committee approved a draft bill with some amendments on May 19. This cleared the way for approval by the Bundestag on May 20 and the Bundesrat on May 28. Insiders expect some AV applications to be operational in 2022.

However, the German AV law is limited,. More details of the regulation still need to be worked out. Nevertheless, it is an important milestone that will likely accelerate AV regulation in other

countries and regions will likely accelerate.

AVs are a competitive industry – even for regulation. Table 1 is from the Urban Transport Magazine publication. Overall

this provides a regulatory framework for the deployment and operation of only the simplest AV use cases, which are considered Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).

Examples of operational design areas

The operational design domains listed in the table focus on MaaS use cases because they are less complex than robotaxis and personal AVs. There are at least seven overlapping AV use cases that can be deployed in 2022. Most are variants of AV operations on fixed routes. First-mile and last-mile passenger and freight operations are included because they have significant commercial potential.

Another interesting use case is off-peak demand-response service. It looks like an AV service with flexible routing. It could perhaps be expanded to an off-peak robotaxi service and, in the future, to a full robotaxi service.

The German AV law covers a variety of topics, as listed in the table. It mainly covers operational topics that have been included in the regulation. The German Federal Motor Transport Authority will oversee the procedures for issuing AV operating permits.

The obligations of AV operators and data processing in AV operations are also regulated.

Type approval is required for all vehicles sold in Europe. If future AV functions are added to existing vehicles, a new type approval is required. The regulation of such AV additions are referred to as dormant functions.

A key aspect of the law is the technical requirements for the manufacture, condition and equipment of AVs. Details of these technical regulations are to be announced later by the Federal Office of Transport.

Germany is a pioneer in AV regulation, but AV deployment is a different story. Currently, there is little AV testing in Germany, with the exception of AV vehicles for regular transit – which fits well in a region focused on AV applications for regular transit. AV systems for public transport have great long-term potential in Germany and Europe, but they must compete with excellent mass transit systems.

Many of the mass transit operators are very interested in testing, learning, and deploying AVs in regular transit, initially as a supplement to bus routes to improve service and save costs. The use of AVs in regular service will also generate innovative services that will help reduce emissions from the use of battery electric vehicles.

The German measures represent only a first step in AV regulation; many areas have yet to be addressed. It is hoped that this first step will encourage the EU and other European countries to tackle a wide range of AV regulations. Indeed, the German AV regulation is expected to have a significant impact on AV regulations worldwide.

Germany lags far behind the U.S. and China in AV use case deployment. The new AV regulations are likely to accelerate testing and deployment in Germany, especially for AV vehicles for public transport and similar applications. Two French companies could also benefit: Navya and EasyMile.

As AV regulations expand to include robotaxis and autonomous trucks, expect to see a lot of AV activity coming from overseas companies:

► VW will likely be the first automaker to deploy AVs in Germany, likely using technology.

►Mercedes-Benz is working with Nvidia to develop AVs, but the timing is unclear.

►BMW is active in AV testing, but has announced little so far.

Israel-based Intel Mobileye has already begun testing in Germany and will likely accelerate its AV activities in that country once regulations are in place. It is also likely that U.S. companies will increase their AV activities in Germany. Ford, Waymo, GM and Aurora are potential participants in the German AV rally. Chinese companies are also likely to enter the German and European markets if AV regulation is extended to robotaxis and autonomous trucks.

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