News 1 March 2022

Germany and France at the forefront regarding legislation on automated vehicles – will Sweden be left behind?

The rapidly advancing technical and technological progress in the field of automated driving requires a continuous development of the legislation governing automated vehicles.

In 2016 Sweden permitted the testing of automated vehicles and in 2018 the government report (SOU 2018:16) on automated vehicles was published proposing legislative changes (including the introduction of new legislation (Sw. Lag om automatiserad fordonstrafik)) to facilitate the introduction of fully automated vehicles (SAE level 4 and 5) on public roads within five years. Since then no major developments within the legislative area has been made in Sweden except for a limited government memo (Ds 2021:28) addressing certain responsibility questions in relation to automated vehicles.

What currently can be observed in Europe is that we have an ongoing “race” where multiple countries – France, Germany and the United Kingdom, to mention a few – can be said to compete to create a legal basis for bringing automated vehicles to domestic public roads. For the moment, it seems like France and Germany are ahead of the race.

Through a decree published by the French government on 1 July 2021 France became the first European country to adapt its road and traffic regulations to allow the operation of fully-automated vehicles on public rods. The decree also amends road regulations to authorise testing of automated driving vehicles on public roads.  From September 2022 the decree will also allow the use of automated vehicles on predefined routes or zones. The decree introduces various changes to the French transport legislation such as an updated criminal liability system adapted to the use of automated vehicles. Another newly defined feature is the identification of the level of attention expected from the driver on its driving environment when an automated driving system (ADS) is activated. The decree is seen as a major development for automated driving making France one of the first European countries to put in place a complete regulatory framework for automated vehicles.

Also the Germans have been adjusting the domestic laws regarding automated vehicles. As early as in 2018 they had regulated the rights and responsibilities a driver should bear in terms of autonomous driving function. As of July 2021, Germany adopted a new legislation that enables autonomous vehicles to be driven within defined testing areas – something they consider being a step towards introducing this type of vehicles to domestic public roads. The legislation is also seen as an attempt to temporarily close existing legislative gaps until the international and EU legal framework is set. Until the new legislation, Germany only allowed regular operations by a driver up to SAE Level 3. The new law no longer requires a driver and intends to allow SAE Level 4 to be used in regular operation in defined operating areas – an advancement which puts Germany at the forefront in this field. The key features of the German law are, inter alia, that instead of a driver, a new role of a “technical supervisor” has been introduced. It is a natural person responsible to ensure compliance with road traffic law. The law will, furthermore, extend existing testing opportunities for autonomous driving functions and there will be the possibility to approve vehicles with so-called “sleeping” autonomous functions. The law further describes several data protection measures and obligations; the owner of the vehicle with autonomous driving functions will be obligated to store, and – upon request – transmit certain vehicle data (e.g. vehicle identification number, position data, environmental conditions, speed etc.). In terms of liability the manufacturer of an automated vehicle will be responsible for cybersecurity and risk assessments for the automated driving system.

It is obvious that some of the countries within EU such as France and Germany are moving faster than Sweden to facilitate a legal landscape under which their respective automotive industries may develop and transition into the future use of automated vehicles. Considering that the automotive industry is still a major contributor towards the Swedish economy we hope that we will see legislative progress in the near future. Wistrand will continue to monitor the development in Sweden and abroad.

Facts about SAE: SAE is the international standard provided by SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineers), which describes the six levels of driving automation. The levels range from “No Driving Automation” (Level 0) to “Full Driving Automation” (Level 5).