Authors: Hanno Delp and Christoph Werkmeister 

Yesterday, the German government presented ambitious draft legislation to pave the way for automated driving in Germany. This follows the path set in the US, where the government has already begun developing a legal framework for automated driving. The proposed German legislation defines highly and fully automated driving systems and lays out the obligations of the driver when a vehicle is operating in an automated mode. In a nutshell, the driver is allowed to yield to the vehicle the task of driving, but is still obliged to monitor the vehicle and the driving situation so that it is possible to recognize when it is necessary to retake full control over the vehicle when the automated disengages itself, for example due to bad weather or unclear line markings. The new law, which is intended to come into force prior to the next major election in Germany in September 2017, creates opportunities for auto manufacturers and suppliers to develop automated technology that meets legislative expectations. However, the draft legislation falls short of addressing all aspects of automated driving. Data protection concerns are not considered comprehensively, nor is it fully clear how liability issues will be resolved. This means that some uncertainty remains for auto manufacturers and suppliers when making business decisions regarding the design and development of the new automated driving technology.

It remains to be seen whether other legislatures will follow suit, but the recent amendment of the Vienna Convention provides with sufficient leeway to do so.