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Germany to Create World's First Highway Code For Driverless Cars

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Some favor a rule requiring humans to take over the steering within 10 seconds.

Germany's minister of transport has proposed changes to current law that would govern how driverless vehicles respond in potentially deadly crashes.

Credit: Dominique Leppin/EPA

The first legal framework for autonomous vehicles is outlined in a bill recently proposed by German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt, governing how such cars perform in potentially deadly crashes.

The proposal specifies that a driverless car must always opt for property damage over personal injury, never discriminate between humans based on categories such as age or race, and if a human driver removes their hands from the steering wheel, the car's manufacturer is liable for a crash.

Dobrindt says the bill will level the legal playing field for human motorists and autonomous cars. "The change to the road traffic law will permit fully automatic driving," he says.

Dobrindt and others also support a rule requiring a driver to be sufficiently alert to assume vehicle control within 10 seconds, but some critics think that amount of time is insufficient. For example, Natasha Merat at the U.K.'s University of Leeds estimates people can require up to 40 seconds to refocus, depending on what they were doing at the time.

Merat believes some automakers will wait until vehicles can be fully automated, without any human input, due to the current lack of clarity.

From New Scientist
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