Cars no longer need to have a driver. However, the new law on autonomous driving does not want to do without people entirely.
The way for driverless cars on German roads is clear. The federal government has now passed a legislative package on autonomous driving that allows the operation of self-driving robotic vehicles. It should come into force in May and apply at least until a Europe-wide regulation is established. The government wants to secure the good position of the Federal Republic and the local auto industry in this technology field with the regulations made.
The new law applies above all to cars that drive autonomously without a driver, i.e. without a safety driver on board. These so-called Level 4 vehicles are primarily robot taxis, shuttle buses or automated delivery vans. For private cars, level 4 technology should initially not play a major role.
Driverless driving is only permitted by law in specific, defined operating areas that the vehicle must not leave. These can be specific inner-city regions or a university campus, but also motorway stages or special sections of other streets. The federal states are responsible for the approval.
During operation, the robot cars must be monitored by a kind of control room - referred to as "technical supervision" in the draft - which intervenes in the event of problems or hazards, but does not permanently monitor what is happening. The law speaks of natural persons who can deactivate and release the vehicle remotely. Ultimately, one person remains responsible for accident-free operation - even if they no longer have to sit on board. At the same time, the vehicle should also be able to switch to a safe operating state at any time - for example, to stop if necessary. Communication between the vehicle and the control room should take place via a "sufficiently secure radio link".
The owners should also be obliged to save the data generated during the journey and, if necessary, forward it to the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) or research institutions. This should help in the further development of the technology of autonomous driving. Because it is - as the draft law also knows - not perfect at the start.