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Automated Driving

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As road transport becomes more and more digital, enormous opportunities are arising for our society and economy. It is imperative that these opportunities be exploited. People’s mobility patterns and needs are changing. Germany is a state-of-the-art technology hub. The automobile was invented here. It is also one of the leading exporting nations and an important transit country. Modern mobility has always been the key to prosperity. The Federal Government has set itself the task of promoting this prosperity in the digital age, too, and of making road traffic safer, more convenient, more efficient and greener. Automated and connected driving is an essential part of modern mobility.

Automated Driving Systems and Connected Driving

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Whereas assistance systems always only relieve drivers of part of their driving task or – as is the case with ESP, for instance – help them to re-stabilize their vehicle in especially critical situations, the assistance provided by automated systems goes one step further. Automated driving systems can take over the entire task of driving from the driver in very specific situations for a limited period of time, i.e. both the lateral control (steering) and the longitudinal control (speed regulation) of the vehicle. The system for motorways is one example of an automated driving system. These systems can, up to a certain maximum speed, automatically maintain the desired distance from the vehicle in front while checking that the vehicle keeps in its lane. In the future, they will be able to switch lanes, too. As opposed to autonomous (driverless) driving, an automated driving system requires a driver.

Connected driving refers to communication between vehicles (vehicle-to-vehicle or V2V) and between vehicles and infrastructure (vehicle-to-infrastructure or V2I). This significantly increases the quantity and quality (up-to-dateness, accuracy) of the individual road user’s traffic-related information. A vehicle can, for instance, directly transfer information on the end of a tailback or an accident ahead to the following vehicles through an exchange of data. Drivers approaching from behind will receive a warning message. Vehicles in automated mode can respond accordingly based on this information.

The combination of automation and connectivity functions is to increase road safety and driving comfort, to make the flow of traffic more efficient and consequently reduce traffic-related emissions. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure is preparing the ground for automated and connected driving. At the same time, this will strengthen Germany as a hub of innovation. Our country is already the world leader in developing automated and connected driving. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure is ensuring that all the key players cooperate and is paving the way for solutions that are acceptable to all sectors of society.

"Automated Driving" Round Table

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The Federal Government is committed to creating an optimum regulatory framework and the necessary conditions for the introduction of automated and connected driving systems. In 2013, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure established the “Automated Driving” Round Table, an advisory body that enables a close exchange of ideas and experience among stakeholders from industry, academia, associations and public administration and pools the required know-how in such a way that a broad-based societal consensus can be achieved on all relevant aspects of automated and connected driving. The Round Table meets twice a year and has, among other things, determined which research areas are to be taken into account when developing automated driving.

Strategy for Automated and Connected Driving

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In September 2015, on the basis of recommendations made by the "Automated Driving" Round Table, the Federal Government published the "Strategy for Automated and Connected Driving - Remain a lead provider, become a lead market, introduce regular operations", thereby adopting guidelines on how to exploit the opportunities for growth and prosperity inherent in automated and connected driving. These technologies harbour the potential to increase road safety and traffic efficiency, reduce traffic-related emissions and strengthen Germany as a competitive business site for economic activity and a more attractive location for innovative businesses.

The implementation of the strategy, which was supported by members of the Automated Driving Round Table, triggered measures in five fields of action:

  • Infrastructure: the deployment of a high-performance digital network infrastructure is designed to make it possible to connect vehicles with one another and with the road infrastructure in real time. Road infrastructure is to be designed according to digital mobility requirements.
  • Legislation: the deployment of automated and connected vehicles needs legal certainty. This applies to both users and industry. Here, the following principle must apply: the proper use of automated and connected vehicles is not a breach of the driver's duty to exercise due diligence.
  • Innovation: the potential for growth and prosperity inherent in automated and connected driving is to be leveraged where there is development, research and production. The trialling of appropriate technologies on test beds in real-life situations plus research into new issues in connection with their deployment is a key prerequisite for ensuring that these systems work properly and are safe and for assuming a position at the forefront of market introduction and penetration.
  • Connectivity: interaction between vehicles and infrastructure presupposes the collection, processing and intelligent linkage of data. Automated and connected driving requires accurate information, i.e. on the traffic situation, spatial conditions, the state of the infrastructure and the weather situation.
  • Cyber security and data protection: the digitalization of mobility and the associated increase in the amount of data are creating new requirements to be met by cyber security for vehicles and infrastructure and the protection of data. Automated and connected driving systems thus require clear and internationally applicable cyber security standards and data protection requirements.

Societal dialogue plays a key role in implementing the Strategy for Automated and Connected Driving. Automated and connected driving will be gradually developed and introduced. Road traffic will be characterized by mixed-traffic for many years, which means that we will see both vehicles with and without automated and connected driving functions. For this reason, strategies must be developed for the introduction of these new technologies in order to make them as beneficial as possible for society as a whole. Other key action areas include considering opportunities, benefits and risks associated with the new technologies and promoting an exchange of experience between industry, academia and the various groups in society. In addition, an independent Ethics Commission, with members from the scientific community, the automotive industry and the digital technology sector as well as associations, is focusing on ethical questions related to the introduction of higher levels of automation in complex traffic situations.

To the "Automated and Connected Driving Strategy" brochure

Amendments to the Road Traffic Act (StVG)

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The Act amending the Road Traffic Act entered into force on 21 June 2017. This Act contains fundamental rules governing the interaction between drivers and motor vehicles with conditional (level 3) or highly (level 4) automated driving functions. It is an essential basis for acceptance and the safe introduction of automated driving functions in road traffic.

  • The key element of this Act is the changed rights and duties of drivers during an automated driving phase. Under certain conditions, the driver may divert their attention from traffic and from controlling the vehicle while using conditional (level 3) or highly (level 4) automated driving functions.
  • It is clear that the driver is still on board. However, they may rely on the functioning of the system if they abide by the new rules and, in the event of a system failure, they will not be held liable.
  • We are thus providing legal certainty for the future of automated driving in our country to both consumers and industry.
  • With this Act, Germany has the most innovative road traffic law in the world.

Ethics Commission on Automated and Connected Driving

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On 20 June 2017, the Ethics Commission on Automated and Connected Driving presented its report, including 20 ethical rules, to Federal Minister Alexander Dobrindt, who
established this independent Commission, chaired by Prof. Udo Di Fabio, a former judge at the German Federal Constitutional Court, in September 2016. It received the mandate to develop ethical guidelines for these new technologies. The Commission includes distinguished experts from academia, society, the automotive industry and the digital technology sector. It is the first such body in the world to address these important and socially relevant questions.

To the Ethics-Commission’s report

Digital Test Beds

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Digital test beds in the public realm provide industry and the research community with an opportunity to gain experience in real world driving and in driving situations of various degrees of complexity on motorways, rural roads and in cities. The insights from the test beds provide policymakers with important decision-making bases. The Digital Motorway Test Bed was established on the A 9 motorway by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), together with the Free State of Bavaria, the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and the Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom). Industry and the research community are using this test bed to develop and trial technologies for both automated and connected driving and intelligent infrastructure. The test bed is not a secluded testing area. Trials are carried out in real traffic situations, a laboratory under real-life conditions.

To prepare the implementation of automated and connected driving functions in rural and urban traffic, while including public and freight transport, additional measures are being taken. The BMVI supports in particular activities on test beds in the cities of Berlin, Braunschweig, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Ingolstadt and Munich, since they define various key thematic areas for trials due to different conditions regarding traffic and infrastructure. Insights from complex driving situations can be gained in rural and urban real life traffic situations, e.g. at traffic lights, intersections or when there is interaction with non-motorized road users. Based on this, the interaction between motorway, rural and urban traffic is to be future-proofed.

In order to trial automated and connected driving technologies beyond national borders, the BMVI is establishing a Franco-German digital test bed together with France. To do so, in February 2017, a declaration was signed, establishing common objectives, the main aspects of the cooperation and the alignment of the route. This cooperation creates the framework needed to increase the potential of these technologies in a European context, too, to make technical solutions more interoperable and facilitate application-oriented demonstrations.

Further information on the Digital Motorway Test bed

International Cooperation

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Technologies for automated and connected driving are evolving at breakneck speed. International competition is getting fiercer. Users expect these new technologies to be safe and applicable across national borders. Therefore, it is necessary that relevant standards be created at international and European levels. Germany is committed to this purpose at the UNECE, G7 and European levels.

The BMVI is actively involved in the UNECE working groups (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) to help evolve the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. The Vienna Convention is an international treaty aimed at making road transport safer by standardizing traffic rules. The use of autonomous driving systems is to be made possible by amending the Convention. In addition, the UNECE working groups are working on rules concerning cyber security and data protection and on other technical regulations.

On the initiative of Germany, the G7 Transport Ministers have made automated and connected driving one of the key priorities of their cooperation. France, Italy, Japan, Canada, the UK, the USA and Germany are cooperating particularly closely in the fields of international standardization, societal acceptance, data protection and cyber security as well as research and trialling and cross-border interoperability.

Germany is also actively involved at the European level in initiatives by the Directorates-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE), Communications Networks, Content & Technology (DG CONNECT) and Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROWTH). Key issues include the introduction of connected driving in Europe, cross-border application of the new technologies, fostering cooperation between the automotive and ICT sectors as well as strengthening the competitiveness of Europe’s automotive industry.

Key elements of a common European approach to the development of automated and connected driving were formulated in the Amsterdam Declaration of the EU Council Presidency of the Netherlands in 2016. Based on this, a High Level Structured Dialogue was established at Member State level. The forum takes place on a regular basis under rotating chairmanship of the Member States. The objective is to bring together the various ongoing discussions being held in the EU about this topic. The inaugural meeting was held in February 2017 and was chaired by the Netherlands. Germany is actively supporting the fleshing-out of this forum and will organize its second meeting in late 2017. In addition to its institutional cooperation, the BMVI maintains numerous bilateral contacts.