You probably heard that the current Audi A8 is the first production car in the world that is capable of eyes-off Level 3 automated self-driving. While that truly is an impressive feat and other car makers will soon offer the same kind of tech on their cars as well, in certain parts of the world using that feature would be illegal right now. Europe is one of those regions and manufacturers such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz are pleading with the authorities to develop new regulations.
Right now, there are restrictions in Europe forbidding the usage of such self-driving systems on public roads. As such, manufacturers just turn off these features in cars sold in Europe, making them available for clients in the US or China, for example. Even BMW’s Level 2+ systems, that allow the car to drive itself on the highways for short spurts at a time are not available in the EU right now, because of the lack of a regulatory check. While most of these self-driving systems are meant to give you some leeway when driving for longer periods of time, some features are meant to keep you safe but even those are not approved at the moment.
“Take the example of emergency assist, where the car pulls over to the side of the road should the driver become unresponsive. This is better than doing nothing in such an event, but there is no type approval,” said Alejandro Vukotich, the head of self-driving tech development over at BMW for Automotive News Europe in a recent report. According to the current regulations, the only legally safe option for such a situation would be for the vehicle to continue on its trajectory unimpeded.
“The legal framework on the requirements for certifying a [Level 3] system for sale in Europe has not been clarified,” added Vukotich. And he’s right. Officials from Audi and Mercedes-Benz also agree that something needs to be done in this regard. Otherwise, there’s a very good chance that the legislation will always be playing catch-up with the technology and slow down the development process.