While Google may be grabbing all the headlines around autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, almost every major car manufacturer has their own takes in the pipeline, and while it will still be quite a few years before these cars reach consumers, Germany wants to get ahead of the curve with strict legislation that could change the course for every manufacturer working on adding the technology.
Regulating boards have been under increased pressure to form guidelines after two separate crashes occurred with Tesla’s Auto Pilot feature in their cars, which is already available to consumers as a beta, resulting in one death.
Germany’s Transport Minister, Alexander Dobrindt, is one of the latest to take a harder stance on the technology and issued a new proposal that, if approved, could see car manufactures headed back to the drawing boards.
While Dobrindt’s proposal wouldn’t make it mandatory for the person in the “drivers seat” to pay attention to the road (he’s apparently okay with a snooze), someone would have to be in that seat and be ready to take the wheel in case the system fails.
This seems like a reasonable request but it comes when car manufactures are hoping to ditch the old-fashioned steering wheel completely. Car manufacturers would most likely not make one model with the steering wheel for Germany and then one without for other countries, so this could change the future of driverless cars.
One of the other proposals mentioned is the addition of a black box that would record all the major functions of the cars trip, including when the driver was in control and when that control was handed over to the car.
A black box recording would make it easier to determine who was at fault, the driver or the car, if an accident occurred.
Who takes responsibility has been a concern with driverless cars, but car manufacturers have been claiming that they would take that responsibility if the car was in an autonomous mode. Mercedes-Benz and Volvo are two of the companies taking that stance.
Dobrindt’s proposal, and many others like it, have been criticized for holding back the advancement of this technology, but it is an issue that needs to addressed before these cars start hitting roads.
No hard dates have been set yet, but most estimates are leaning towards mass market autonomous cars being on the road by 2020.