Many people are still unclear about the legal situation for autonomous vehicles with regard to approval and their use on public roads.
Types of "autonomous" cars:
Autonomous cars (AC), whose systems can take over all driving tasks without constant supervision by a driver, are to be divided into three categories for this purpose:
AC with driver on driverseat: Permanent occupation of a driver's seat by a driver with responsibility for taking over the driving functions;
AC with driver in the vehicle: No permanent occupation of a driver's seat by the driver; but still responsible for taking over the driving functions;
Driverless AC: No permanent occupation of a driver's seat by a driver and also no responsibility for taking over the driving functions.
Approval of "autonomous" cars:
Subject to compliance with comprehensive technical and procedural regulations, EU and national type approval of all three AC types is already possible in the EU member states. This is particularly surprising with regard to the existing possibility of type approval for cars without a driver present, i.e. driverless AC. However, it should be noted that approval is currently only possible as a "small series" (i.e. a maximum of 1,500 units per year; however, unlimited series approval is planned for 2024). Furthermore, a summary of relevant regulations shows that they must be built for use in a specific area or for a route with a fixed start and finish point for a journey and for parking applications.
Autonomous driving in practice:
In accordance with the "Automated Driving Ordinance" of the BMK, "AC with Driver on Driverseat" can already travel at speeds of up to 50 km/h on public roads (excluding freeways and expressways) in Austria. In addition to compliance with the relevant technical and procedural regulations, it is essential that a driver responsible for resuming driving activities is present in the driver's seat and that the vehicle is used for test purposes. The ALP.LAB, a dedicated hub for automated mobility, has been set up in Graz for this purpose. A look at the legal basis of the "Automated Driving Ordinance" shows that the current legal situation would even allow for a wider scope of application: According to this, the legislator could not only permit the use of AC with Driver on Driverseat but also the use of AC with Driver (but without Driverseat) for test purposes and, with an approved assistance system, even the use of both vehicle types beyond test purposes on public roads in Austria, provided there are no concerns regarding traffic and operational safety. However, unlike in Germany, for example, there is still no legal basis for the use of driverless AC on public roads in Austria.
This article originally appeared in the magazine Austria Innovativ 6-23.