Germany passes law to allow self-driving cars on public roads

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BMW Highly Automated Driving prototype

BMW Highly Automated Driving prototype

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Despite being home to some of the world's biggest automakers, Germany has lagged other countries when it comes to legislation allowing for self-driving cars to take to public roads.

That changed on May 12 when the government there passed a law that lists the conditions under which self-driving cars are allowed to be used. Previously, German automakers have had to do most of their self-driving car testing in other countries, primarily the United States.

Under the new rules, a driver still needs to be behind the wheel to take over in case of an emergency. Moreover, the cars also need black box recorders so that investigators can determine whether a car was in control or a driver in case of an accident. Should the car be at fault, the manufacturer will be liable.

Mercedes-Benz S500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE prototype

Mercedes-Benz S500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE prototype

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Note, there are currently no self-driving cars on the market where a driver is not required to pay attention at all times. That will change with the arrival of the next-generation Audi A8 which promises to offer hands-free, eyes-free self-driving capability in certain situations.

The German government plans to revise the law in two years to ensure it keeps up with the rapid pace of technological change.

In other self-driving car news, automotive parts supplier Delphi has joined the partnership between BMW, Intel and Intel-owned Mobileye that aims to develop a self-driving system that can be licensed to other firms. Delphi in 2015 showed its progress in the area of self-driving cars with a prototype based on the Audi Q5.

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