HomeAutonomous VehiclesEMEA: Could the Vienna Convention derail Europe’s autonomous driving plans?

EMEA: Could the Vienna Convention derail Europe’s autonomous driving plans?

Could something that was agreed to in 1968 have an impact on the autonomous driving vision for the European Union? It could as there is a section pertaining to road traffic that is currently raising a stir.

There’s been quite a bit of news about autonomous driving programs in the U.K., but if you really think about it you don’t see actual programs to date in Europe, which seems surprising with all of the major automotive OEMs in the region. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties could likely be the reason why.

The 1968 Vienna Convention covers road traffic safety regulations and establishes principles to govern traffic laws. One of the fundamental principles of the convention has been the concept that a driver is always fully in control and responsible for the behavior of a vehicle in traffic. To date, the driver is defined as a person. Is it possible that an autonomous vehicle can be recognized as having the vehicle as the driver under these circumstances? This doesn’t seem that farfetched, except that even today’s collision avoidance systems such as ADAS could be considered outside of the intention of the law.

In March, the Working Party on Road Traffic Safety held a meeting in Geneva, with the governments of Belgium and Sweden submitting a proposal to amend current laws. In considering ADAS functionality, the driver is still ultimately in control of the vehicle as these systems do not take over driving, but assist the driver to drive more safely – if you consider them on the simplest level. Even the movement to semi-autonomous driving will be outside the intention of the law as the driver may not be “actively” monitoring the traffic situation and vehicle status. Amendment work has already been done to address these systems in the context of the driver still being present enough in the situation to take over driving of the vehicle when required. The amendments allow for semi-autonomous driving as the driver is still in control and able to take over driving the vehicle as required at any time and will be accepted into law in early 2016.

Today the convention defines a driver as any person who drives a motor vehicle or other vehicle (including a bicycle), or who guides cattle, singly or in herds, or flocks, or draught, pack or saddle animals on a road. The recommendation is to amend this to include any “driver or vehicle system” that has full control from the time a vehicle departs until arrival at its destination. Let’s hope it happens soon.

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Claudia Bacco, Managing Director – EMEA for RCR Wireless News, has spent her entire career in telecom, IT and security. Having experience as an operator, software and hardware vendor and as a well-known industry analyst, she has many opinions on the market. She’ll be sharing those opinions along with ongoing trend analysis for RCR Wireless News.

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