New rules for Level 3 auto­no­mous driving

After a few years in which litt­le pro­gress was made on the regu­la­to­ry front in spi­te of the tech­no­lo­gi­cal advan­ces, the UNECE World Forum for Har­mo­niza­ti­on of Vehic­le Regu­la­ti­ons has now adopted new inter­na­tio­nal regu­la­ti­ons for auto­no­mous dri­ving.

The­se new regu­la­ti­ons crea­te the basis for the as yet non-existent regu­la­to­ry requi­re­ments con­cer­ning appr­oval for Level 3 auto­no­mous dri­ving. At the moment, vehic­les can only fea­ture Level 2 auto­no­mous dri­ving, for which the dri­ver has to con­stant­ly moni­tor the sys­tems and must be rea­dy to inter­ve­ne to imme­dia­te­ly take back con­trol of the vehic­le if neces­sa­ry. In Level 3 auto­no­mous dri­ving, on the other hand, the dri­ver is no lon­ger requi­red to con­stant­ly moni­tor the sys­tems and is only requi­red to take over, after a cer­tain delay, if noti­fied by the sys­tem that such an action is neces­sa­ry. The sys­tem must be able to ope­ra­te the vehic­le on its own even if the dri­ver does not take over.

But the new UNECE Regu­la­ti­ons only allow Level 3 auto­no­mous dri­ving in cer­tain cases, in con­junc­tion with auto­ma­ted lane kee­ping sys­tems (ALKS). Spe­ci­fi­cal­ly, it only does so for roads which are not open to pede­stri­ans and cyclists, and in which lanes of traf­fic moving in the oppo­si­te direc­tion are sepa­ra­ted by a phy­si­cal bar­ri­er. Moreo­ver, the sys­tem may only be used up to a speed of 60 km/h.

Regu­la­ti­ons must be imple­men­ted in EU law to be valid

The regu­la­ti­ons adopted by UNECE take effect in Janu­ary 2021 but will remain non-binding until imple­men­ted into natio­nal or com­mu­ni­ty law.

The back­ground is that, in the Euro­pean Uni­on (as in many other count­ries in the world), vehic­les can­not be regis­tered wit­hout appr­oval from the com­pe­tent aut­ho­ri­ties. In the EU, such appr­oval is typi­cal­ly gran­ted based on Direc­ti­ve 2007/46/EC (as of 1 Sep­tem­ber 2020: based on Regu­la­ti­on (EU) 2018/858), which in turn refers to UNECE (tech­ni­cal) regu­la­ti­ons. The new regu­la­ti­ons will not beco­me bin­ding in the Euro­pean Uni­on (EU) until the refe­ren­ces to the new UNECE rules are imple­men­ted into com­mu­ni­ty law by the EU or once the rele­vant EU legis­la­ti­on its­elf is direct­ly adapt­ed to con­form to the con­tent of the UNECE regu­la­ti­ons.

A pre­cise date for imple­men­ta­ti­on into EU law is not yet known. Howe­ver, other count­ries (e.g. Japan) have alre­a­dy announ­ced that they intend to app­ly the new regu­la­ti­ons right away once they take effect in Janu­ary 2021.

We will keep you infor­med about new deve­lo­p­ments con­cer­ning imple­men­ta­ti­on within the EU.


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