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Continental calls for market-based adaptation of the legal framework to support autonomous driving

7 July 2014

International automotive supplier Continental is calling for a market-based adaptation of the legal framework for automated driving. Motorists want automated driving, and those needs match perfectly with development possibilities in the coming years, said Continental head of research for automotive electronics, Christian Senger, during the “Zulieferer Innovativ 2014” Congress at BMW Welt in Munich.

However, the necessary adjustments to the traffic regulatory framework must not fail to take into account the connection with these market dynamics. Initial success in this regard was seen with the recent modification of the Vienna Convention, which established the legal foundations for partially automated driving. But we are still a long way away from highly automated driving from a traffic regulatory perspective.

—Christian Senger

According to Senger, legislators should address the basic policy decisions now so that motorists will be able to make use of highly automated driving functions post 2020.

Article 8 of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic specifies that the driver must maintain permanent control of the vehicle. This limitation was amended in March 2014 in response to the increasing automation of vehicle systems. Automated systems are now permitted as long as they can be overridden or deactivated by the driver. This has established the legal foundation for partially automated driving since control of the vehicle may now essentially be assumed by systems as well.

A critical hurdle along the path to highly automated driving is laid down in a UN/ECE regulation (UN-R 79: “Uniform Provisions Concerning the Approval of Vehicles with regard to Steering Equipment”). According to this regulation, automated steering is currently only permitted up to a speed of as high as 10 km/h (6.2 mph). In order to make highly automated driving functions such as traffic jam assist or emergency steer assist a reality, this speed limitation needs to be lifted.

The Vienna Convention came about as a result of the 1968 UN Conference in Vienna. It aims to facilitate international road traffic and increase road safety. The basis for this is formed by the acceptance of uniform traffic regulations and their incorporation into national road traffic laws. The Convention therefore functions as superordinate legislation for nation states.

Not all countries have ratified the 1968 Vienna Convention. In addition to Germany and most EU Member States, the other principal signatories include Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Switzerland, and Turkey. By contrast, countries that have not yet ratified the Convention include England, Spain, the USA, Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, and Singapore.

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