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Germany will start testing autonomous cars on public roads

New legislation will now allow local German automakers like BMW, Audi, Volkswagen to test their automotive projects on public roads in Germany

Home to some of the biggest automobile companies in the world, Germany is taking things one step further when it comes to automotive technology. Legislation has been passed that will allow local automakers to test autonomous cars on regular German public roads. In a way, this can be seen as a late move, given that several states in the U.S have allowed such testing for quite some time now.

The legislation, which was shot down by Angela Merkel last year, was passed on Friday by the upper house of the parliament. It will allow manufacturers like BMW, Audi, Daimler and Volkswagen to develop and test the performance of automotive cars, an area where most of them are already heavily invested in. The law specifies that a driver must be present at all times behind the wheel while the vehicle is being tested on public roads. Another condition present in the legislation is that a black box must record the instances of the driver taking over control when instructed by the vehicle or otherwise, so that blame can be appropriately apportioned in the event of an accident.

Google recently re-branded its autonomous car division as Waymo

A welcome change

Prior to this, autonomous vehicles could only be tested on strictly controlled and restricted areas in Germany. The law will be reviewed two years from now in 2019 based on the data available and technological progress made. Needless to say, automakers in Germany will be welcoming the change as most of them have been working on autonomous vehicle technology in their R&D divisions and even tested a few projects in their own setups. For instance, Audi, and now Toyota, have partnered with NVIDIA for their autonomous vehicle platform. NVIDIA had unveiled the PX back in 2015 at CES and the PX2 a year later. Similarly, BMW, Intel and Mobileye have a project of their own to unveil an autonomous car by 2021. And even Volkswagen is in the game with their self-driving autonomous van concept Sedric.

Going back a decade, autonomous vehicles would still be a far fetched idea. While right now, almost every automotive company and even non-automotive tech companies are involved in this area. From Google to Uber, almost everyone has some stake in the autonomous car industry with tests running in cities as well-populated as New York. Legislation like this is definitely going to push things further ahead and help Germany catch up with their Silicon Valley competitors, although consumer grade autonomous vehicles are not expected until 2020 at the earliest.

Arnab Mukherjee

Arnab Mukherjee

A former tech-support desk jockey, you can find this individual delving deep into all things tech, fiction and food. Calling his sense of humour merely terrible would be a much better joke than what he usually makes.