The digital transformation of the transport systems offers great opportunities for our society. By applying new approaches, we can effectively react to the changing need for mobility in individual, public and freight transport.
Germany is a state-of-the-art technology hub with a strong mobility, IT and telecommunications industry. It is also one of the leading exporting nations and an important transit country. Modern mobility is key to prosperity. The Federal Government has set itself the task of promoting this prosperity in the digital age, too. Automated and connected driving is an essential part of modern mobility. With these technologies, road transport is to be made safer, more comfortable, efficient and environmentally sustainable. Germany has assumed international leadership in creating the framework for automated and connected driving. This role needs to be further strengthened.
The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure ensures that experts from industry, research, associations, administration and politics cooperate. This is to pave the way for solutions that are acceptable to all sectors of society.
Numerous vehicles are already equipped with high-performance assistance systems. They assist the driver at individual driving tasks (e.g. lane keeping and braking).
Automated driving goes even further. Automated systems can take over the entire task of driving from the driver in very specific situations for a limited period of time. For instance on motorways, 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. More advanced systems, which do not need a driver for the control of the vehicle anymore, are called autonomous (or driverless) systems.
Connected driving refers to communication between vehicles (vehicle-to-vehicle communication) and between vehicles and infrastructure (vehicle-to-infrastructure communication). During connected driving, traffic-related information is exchanged via wireless technologies. This includes, for instance, processed data on traffic flows, accidents, construction sites or the weather. Generally, sensors capture the necessary information. These data are prepared with the help of computers and subsequently made available for the transfer to other vehicles or infrastructure. By exchanging data during connected driving, the range and quality of the information (topicality, accuracy, among others) is significantly increased for the individual road users. As such, information on the end of a tailback or an accident can be directly transferred from vehicles ahead to the following vehicles as a warning.
The combination of automated and connected driving and intelligent transport systems can increase road safety and driving comfort. The traffic flow can be designed in a more efficient way, thereby opening up potentials for reducing transport-related emissions. Therefore, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure actively advocates the further progressing of the technologies as well as their introduction into road transport.
"Automated Driving" Round Table
In 2013, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure established the “Automated Driving” Round Table as an advisory body. It enables a close exchange of ideas and experience among stakeholders from industry, academia, associations and public administration. The required know-how is pooled in such a way that a broad-based societal consensus can be achieved in all relevant aspects of automated and connected driving. The Round Table usually meets twice a year and has elaborated key issues to be taken into account for a successful introduction of automated and connected driving. These were the basis for the Federal Government's “Strategy for Automated and Connected Driving - Remain a lead provider, become a lead market, introduce regular operations” (2015).
The Coalition Agreement of the 19th parliamentary term includes different measures for shaping modern, accessible, sustainable and affordable mobility. Therefore, during the current parliamentary term, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure continues to advocate that an optimum framework be created for the introduction of automated and connected driving systems into regular road traffic operations.
In the context of automated and connected driving, there are numerous priorities for this parliamentary term. Among other things, autonomous driving is to become possible in determined operational areas. To this end, the necessary regulatory framework is being developed.
The necessary conditions are created to further progress the upgrade of traffic technology through the use of intelligent transport systems. An improved connection of different modes of transport by using digital solutions is a core element of the digital mobility strategies that need to be developed, particularly in the frame of research projects.
For all subject areas, a particular focus lies on data protection and data security. Measures for supporting the societal dialogue are to contribute to showing the opportunities and challenges of the new technologies in a transparent way and discussing possible introduction strategies and scenarios.
The objectives of the “Strategy for Automated and Connected Driving - Remain a lead provider, become a lead market, introduce regular operations” are to be continued to further develop mobility. This Strategy was adopted by the Federal Government in 2015. It will be implemented through targeted measures in the action areas of infrastructure, legislation, the funding of innovations, connectivity, cyber security and data protection as well societal dialogue.
Major results of the Federal Government's implementation of the Strategy have been:
- adapting the national legal framework, particularly the Road Traffic Act;
- adopting an action plan for the creation of ethical rules for self-driving computers;
- establishing and coordinating test beds for automated and connected driving in real world driving; Digital Test Beds
- supporting research and development of automated and connected driving solutions, from basic to application research,
- actively shaping rules and standards in bodies at European and international level.
With this, Germany has become an international leader in creating the framework for automated and connected driving. This role needs to be maintained and further strengthened. The state of play of the implementation of the Automated and Connected Driving Strategy was summarised in a report at the end of the 18th parliamentary term.
The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure is funding numerous research projects related to transport and societal topics in the context of automated and connected driving, whose readiness for application is usually proven on digital test beds.
Act on Automated Driving
With the Act on Automated Driving (Eighth Act amending the Road Traffic Act) that entered into force on 21 June 2017, Germany was the first country in the world to regulate the rights and obligations of drivers using automated driving functions. This legislative amendment provided the required legal certainty for consumers as well as industry. If the regulatory requirements are met, drivers, taking into consideration the corresponding legal provisions, may divert their attention from the traffic environment and the operation of their vehicles while using automated driving systems in accordance with the Act. Among other things, the Act defines the high technical requirements to be met by automated systems to allow the drivers to divert their attention. The competent vehicle manufacturer needs to confirm that a system meets these technical requirements. If drivers abide by the new provisions and orderly use the system, they may rely on the functioning of the automated driving function.
Act on Autonomous Driving
After the adoption of the Act on Automated Driving, Germany now intends to enable autonomous, driverless driving in determined operational areas. The required legal framework is currently being prepared.
The legal framework is to enable the deployment of driverless vehicles beyond trialling in Germany. The different mobility needs are taken account of, so that imaginable, suitable use cases for passenger transport but also for logistics, with their different prerequisites, can be made feasible.
The legal framework serves to enable motor vehicles with autonomous driving functions to use public roads in Germany for as long as no overarching (internationally) harmonised provisions exist. With this endeavour, we intend to promote the potential of autonomous driving and further strengthen the German leadership in this area.
In parallel, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure is actively working on shaping regulatory framework conditions at the international level in a corresponding way.
On the basis of the results of the independent Ethics Commission on Automated and Connected Driving from the previous parliamentary term, the Federal Government has adopted an action plan for the creation of ethical rules for self-driving computers. On this basis, the development of the technologies will be further progressed. The measures contained in this plan are being implemented. For instance, upon initiative of Germany and in the context of the regularly held High Level Structural Dialogue on Automated and Connected Driving, the EU Member States have agreed to continue the discussion on cross-cutting ethical questions at EU level to develop a harmonised, Europe-wide frame.
The independent Ethics Commission on Automated and Connected Driving includes distinguished experts from academia, society, the automotive industry and the digital technology sector. This was the first body in the world to look into the important socially relevant questions concerning automated and connected vehicular traffic. The final report includes 20 ethical rules to this end.
Technologies for automated and connected driving are evolving at breakneck speed. International competition is getting fiercer. Consumers 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 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), G7 and European levels.
In various UNECE working parties, Germany is actively lobbying for the adaptation of international rules and standards to automated and connected driving. To make sure they will also meet future requirements, we need to include higher automation levels, too, going as far as autonomous driving. Since 2020, Germany has been chairing the important GRVA Working Party (Groupe de Rapporteurs pour les Véhicules Autonomes) within the UNECE WP.29 (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe – World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations).
Here, in addition to rules for first versions of a lane keeping assistance system and vehicle data storage systems as well as harmonised rules concerning IT security and software updates, rules on validation methods and functional prerequisites in the context of automated/autonomous vehicles are prepared.
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, cyber security, data protection and use as well as research and trialling.
In order to quickly deploy Europe-wide applications on automated and connected driving and intelligent transport systems that function across borders, the EU Member States agreed on important steps with the Amsterdam Declaration of the Dutch EU Council Presidency in 2016. Among other things, they agreed on holding in regular intervals the High Level Structural Dialogue, which is also attended by the European Commission as well as industry associations.
In addition to cooperating with states in European and international bodies, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure is also in close bilateral contact with the ministries of other states, focusing on a variety of questions concerning automated and connected driving and the use of intelligent transport systems.