Germany drafts a new Autonomous Driving Act

Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure in Germany has recently presented a new law to bring autonomous driving into broader practice. By allowing autonomous vehicles (AV), corresponding to SAE level 4, in defined operating areas nationwide represents the next step towards regular operation on public roads and for use in various areas of mobility [1]. The regulatory framework is an interim solution due to the absence of international harmonized regulations [2]. It is meant to create suitable conditions for the introduction of regular operation in the meantime until international harmonization is reached, considering the innovative dynamics of the technology development.

One central aspect introduced in the new act is the role of a technical supervision. The technical supervision is a person that activates/deactivates automated driving and enables driving manoeuvres if necessary. This person does not have to monitor the driving all the time and can be in charge of more than one AV. But she/he must be able to pay attention to signals from the vehicle and react accordingly, such as approving a driving manoeuvre, which could mean to break the traffic rules if necessary [2]. The person also has certain other tasks e.g., after an accident and needs specific training and qualification. Furthermore, obligations of owners are extended, such as insurance including the technical supervision, as well as for data processing and data storage during operation of AV. Vehicle owners apply for approval of the vehicle for road traffic. The owner´s responsibility for maintenance and certain other obligations, such as to ensure that rules on tires, seat belts, cargo, etc. are followed, can however be transferred to someone else.

The new law regulates obligations also for manufacturers, for example to ensure that equipment and systems meet the set requirements, to secure against attacks and to contact the authorities in the case of detected manipulations on their vehicles. Manufacturers must also, if necessary, take the appropriate measures in accordance with product safety legislation, such as recalls and offer training to the persons involved in the operation of their vehicles.

Another central aspect are the defined operating areas. The law creates the prerequisites for the use of AV in regular operation as well as in the entire national area of application – however in operational areas previously determined by the responsible state authorities. The vehicle owner/operator defines the operating area, which then needs to be approved by a licensing authority. Examples mentioned are public transport, business and supply trips, logistics, travel between medical care centres or nursing homes. The German government aims to bring the law into operation by 2022 [3].

The author is with the Policy Lab at RISE that is working to prevent that regulations and policies haven’t kept up with the technological development [4]. Policy labs is one way of managing the perceived conflict between technological innovation and existing regulations. Within a policy lab, a wide range of stakeholders gather to solve the bottlenecks for innovations together. At RISE, the policy lab approach has been applied in R&D projects for introducing autonomous vehicles and for other technology- and business-driven processes.


[1] Autonomes Fahren in die Praxis holen Link

[2] Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Änderung des Straßenverkehrsgesetzes und des Pflichtversicherungsgesetzes – Gesetz zum autonomen Fahren, 2021-02-10 Link

[3] Tesla full self-driving one step closer as Germany paves way for Level 4 autonomy. 2021.-02-11 Link

[4] RISE Policy lab for policy and regulatory development. Link