Are Autonomous Vehicles Regulations Ready?

The technical and legal landscape for connected vehicles, advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous vehicles is undergoing rapid change at both the national and international level.

In particular, the regulation of liability and coverage under insurance laws in case of an accident involving highly or fully automated vehicles has become a pressing issue. Last year, Germany adopted “the world’s most advanced road traffic law”, which at first glance allows drivers to pursue other activities during phases of automation such as surfing the internet or writing emails. However, on closer examination the new statutory provisions give rise to significant legal uncertainty. It goes without saying that automated vehicles will only find general acceptance in the market if the human-machine interaction is designed in a manner that does not unduly burden the driver with liability risks under civil and criminal law.

With regard to damage caused by the malfunctioning of automation products, a paradigm shift is currently emerging from liability on the part of the driver towards product and manufacturer liability. In particular, vehicle design will have to guard against the interruption of connectivity and cyber attacks, which entail potentially life-threatening risks for road users. Due to the increased focus on manufacturer liability, complex recourse questions are likely to arise in the supply chain. The interconnectivity and automation of vehicle systems drastically increases the liability exposure of software suppliers, internet service providers and technology companies. At the same time, the convergence between the automotive and technology industries is putting conventional business models to the test.

Finally, the permitted use of automated vehicles in road traffic is subject to international regulation. Most importantly, the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic regulates the admission of vehicles in international traffic and harmonizes traffic rules across countries. This legal text requires further adjustments, since the amendments which took effect in March 2016 do not remove all barriers to fully autonomous driving. Similarly, the current set of international vehicle specifications (ECE Regulations) urgently needs to be expanded to allow for the type approval of more advanced automated driving systems on a global basis.

You can learn more about legal frameworks for autonomous vehicles at IoT – Connected Smart Cars and Vehicles Forum in Berlin. Download full agenda for the event here.

By Dr. Christian Kessel

Christian is a widely experienced commercial lawyer with special expertise in automotive and supply chain issues Christian’s practice is focused on commercial contracts, supply chain matters and
corporate transactions. He is one of the leading and most experienced legal experts in the automotive industry. He is deeply involved in the disruptive technologies of autonomous driving and electromobility. Christian is a partner in our Frankfurt office and head of our National and International Automotive Group. His areas of practice comprise drafting of, reviewing, advising on and negotiating complex commercial contracts, standard agreements required by clients for use in both B2B and B2C settings and advising on any relevant warranty and liability
issues. Christian advises and represents automotive suppliers. Admitted to the Berlin Bar in 1991 and to the Frankfurt Bar in 1996, Christian has also been a solicitor in England and Wales since 1993 and practised in London from 1991 to 1996. He studied at the Freie Universität Berlin, where he gained his doctorate degree in 1994 and at the University of London, Kings’ College, where
he gained his LLM.

Dr. Christian Kessel,
Direct: +49 (0) 69 74222 6223
Tel: +49 (0) 69 74222 6000
Fax: +49 (0)69 74222 6011

About the author: BIS Group