Germany has adopted legislation that will allow driverless vehicles on public roads by 2022, laying out a path for companies to deploy robotaxis and delivery services in the country.
While autonomous testing is currently permitted in Germany, this would allow operations of driverless vehicles without a human safety operator behind the wheel.
The bill, which last week passed the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, specifically looks at vehicles with Level 4 autonomy. Level 4 autonomy is a designation by the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) which means the computer handles all the driving in certain conditions or environments. In Germany, these vehicles will be limited to geographic areas.
“In the future, autonomous vehicles should be able to drive nationwide without a physically present driver in specified operating areas of public road traffic in regular operation. According to the Federal Government, further steps must be taken to introduce corresponding systems into regular operation so that the potential of these technologies can be exploited and society can participate in them,” reads the legislation.
The bill still needs to pass through the upper chamber of parliament, or the Bundesrat. Included in the bill are possible initial applications for self-driving cars on German roads, such as public passenger transport, business and supply trips, logistics, company shuttles that handle employee traffic and trips between medical centers and retirement homes.
Companies looking to operate commercial driverless vehicles in Germany will need to adhere to a number of other rules, such as carrying liability insurance and having access to stop autonomous operations remotely.
Several US states and countries have regulations around testing and potentially commercial deployment. Last week, Chinese robotaxi startup Pony.ai became the eighth company to be granted a permit to test driverless vehicles in California, and Nuro is the only company with a deployment permit to operate commercially on public roads in the state.
In China, companies like Jack Ma’s Alibaba-backed AutoX are also testing driverless fleets on public roads. Germany’s legislation is a step beyond testing in the direction of integration into regular traffic.