Government regulates automated driving
The German Government wants to create the foundation for automated driving and regulate the interaction between the driver and the vehicle with the highly or fully automated driving function. A draft bill submitted for this purpose in March 2017 is designed to clarify that the operation of motor vehicles with a highly or fully automated driving function is permitted “within the limits of intended use”. For example, if automated driving is only designed for use on highways, the bill states that the car must not be used on other roads. The bill also specifies that, within the limits of intended use, the automated driving function can be used to control the vehicle “if the vehicle driver complies with specially regulated obligations for immediate resumption of vehicle control”. This means that, within the limit of intended use of an automated driving function that meets these requirements, the driver can rely on the functionality of that function.
The German Government also makes clear that the driver remains the driver of the vehicle in question, even if the vehicle is controlled by means of the automated driving function. “During the automated phase, the vehicle driver is not replaced by the highly or fully automated system,” it states. This could only be the case in autonomous driving where there is no driver, just passengers.
The draft bill also deals with the issue of liability. According to it, the facility for controlling the vehicle by means of highly or fully automated driving functions must not negatively affect other road users, particularly possible accident victims. If the vehicle driver is not subject to duty of compensation for an accident, the vehicle owner merely has to offer compensation for damage, from the perspective of strict liability. And strict liability, in turn, does not require fault in accordance with Paragraph 7 of the German road traffic regulations (StVO). The Government writes that this also clarifies the issue of liability from the perspective of the accident victim in the event of accidents with automated vehicles that are caused by system failure. Using the owner within the context of strict liability will mean that the owner's liability insurance and the manufacturer's insurance will have to clarify who has to ultimately bear the costs of the accident.
In the draft bill, the German Government also points out that, unlike fault-based liability, strict liability is limited to maximum amounts – €5 million in the case of personal injury and €1 million in the case of material damage. For reasons of road casualty protection in the case of vehicles with automated systems, the bill states that the regulation regarding maximum amounts is to be changed: “these amounts are increased if the accident was caused by a system error”. In the absence of experience with accidents involving vehicles with highly or fully automated driving functions, these maximum amounts are to be increased, across the board, by 100% according to the German Government.