In order for Germany to take the lead in robotic cars, the Bundesrat has now approved the government's operating and licensing rules. But in addition to the practical simplifications, the government is also called upon to make improvements.
The way for the approval of autonomous cars is clear. The Federal Council has approved the "Ordinance on the Regulation of the Operation of Motor Vehicles with Automated and Autonomous Driving Functions". This means that such vehicles can be registered and operated regularly on designated routes in Germany.
Compared to the government draft, the chamber of states has made some changes that are primarily intended to facilitate practical implementation. Among other things, no technical visual inspection is planned before each journey; instead, a check by the owner before the start of operation is sufficient. In addition, a trained engineer is no longer required for remote monitoring of the robot cars.
However, the Federal Council is still demanding some specifics from the government. For example, it still has to be regulated how the safety of an accident site without a driver, as required by the road traffic regulations, can work in practice. It is also unclear which regulations apply if the supervisors are drunk or under the influence of drugs.
The regulation primarily relates to cars that drive autonomously without a driver, i.e. that do not have a safety driver on board. These so-called Level 4 vehicles are primarily robotaxis, shuttle buses or automated delivery vans. Level 4 technology should initially not play a major role for private cars.
Driverless driving is only permitted in specific, defined operating areas that the vehicle is not allowed to leave. The operators must have these areas of application approved by the authorities. This can be specific inner-city regions or a university campus, but also motorway stages or special sections of other roads.
During operation, the robotic 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 dangers, but does not permanently monitor what is happening.