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Guidelines on the exemption procedure for the EU approval of automated vehicles

On 17 May 2018, the European Commission published the EU strategy on connected and automated mobility. Based on this we have developed guidelines together with EU countries to harmonise the exemption procedure for EU approval of automated vehicles.

These guidelines help coordinate national ad-hoc assessments of automated vehicles. They also aim to

  • clarify to manufacturers what they can expect from regulators
  • harmonise regulation with international partners
  • start a discussion on the necessary adaption of some national legislation for these vehicles (e.g. traffic rules)

The ‘technical committee – motor vehicles (TCMV)’ endorsed these guidelines during their 79th meeting on 12 February 2019 in Brussels.

The rise of autonomous driving technologies could open the door to a safer and more accessible road transport system.  Experts estimate that human factors cause 95% of traffic accidents, suggesting that driverless vehicles could substantially decrease road traffic injuries and fatalities. Driverless vehicles could also increase flexible mobility for disabled and elderly citizens that cannot drive by themselves.

However, automated vehicle technologies must still evolve for effective and widespread use on roads. Legislation should allow for innovation while ensuring safety, cybersecurity, etc. This is a challenge for institutions regulating the approval of autonomous technologies on vehicles. Meanwhile, we should also guarantee a real internal market to ensure legal certainty, promote investment in relevant technologies and protect citizens against new risks brought by driverless vehicles. This calls for coordination among EU countries certifying autonomous vehicle technologies.

The guidelines

We can already validate new and ground-breaking vehicle automation technologies under the EU vehicle approval framework. Nevertheless, technologies not foreseen by current EU rules can be approved through the so-called EU exemption – granted on the basis of a national ad-hoc safety assessment.

The guidelines provide rules for EU countries to follow in their ad-hoc safety assessments. This ensures coordination in the approval of autonomous technologies. It also supports a more general discussion on how to regulate autonomous vehicles in the future.

The guidelines focus on automated vehicles that can drive themselves in a limited number of driving situations. This encompasses vehicles on levels 3 and 4 of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International. These are already being tested and are expected to be commercially available. These SAE levels target several different areas, namely

  • How the vehicle should act when it is in an automated driving mode
  • How the vehicle should interact with the driver
  • In what ways the vehicle should install event data recorders to register the operational status of the automated driving system, as well as the status of the driver to determine who was driving during an accident
  • How to ensure that the vehicle protects the vehicle against hacking and ensures an appropriate cybersecurity level
  • How safety assessments and tests for the vehicle should be carried out
  • What kind of information should be provided to users about the automated features of the vehicle (e.g. functional limitations, means to deactivate the automated driving mode, and user behaviour to adopt in case of urgency)

The TCMV endorsed these guidelines, so EU countries are expected to follow them. The guidelines will dictate our considerations of future requests from national authorities for exemptions regarding new technologies. In a year, we will revise the guidelines to take technical progress into account.

Background

On 17 May 2018, the Commission released a communication on connected and automated mobility. In it, we set out a European strategy on connected and automated mobility. This contains a common vision and identifies supporting actions to develop and deploy key technologies, services and infrastructure.

Ensuring an internal market for safe uptake of automated mobility was a key issue in the communication. It also focused on how we can set up regulation to allow for innovation in automated technologies.  For this, the communication stated that the Commission would

  • work with EU countries on guidelines for national ad-hoc vehicle safety assessments of automated vehicles
  • start working with EU countries and stakeholders on a new approach for vehicle safety certification for automated vehicles