Self-driving cars a reality - Carnectiv

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Self-driving cars a reality

The prospect of self-driving cars moved closer to becoming reality last month with a little-noticed amendment to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic. This amendment agreed that drivers could now take their hands off the wheel of self-driving cars. It was pushed by Germany, Italy and France – amongst others – whose top-end auto manufacturers believe they are ready to leap-frog the American tech pioneers and bring the first “autonomous vehicles” to market.

“Today I am only allowed to take my hands off the wheel to a limited extent. Thankfully the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic has been changed,” said Thomas Weber, head of Group research at Daimler and head of development at Mercedes-Benz.

As the technology becomes more affordable, Europe’s luxury automakers say they are well placed to take advantage of it because of their deeper experience in engineering, manufacturing, marketing and sales. To this end, in August 2013 Mercedes-Benz drove an S-class limousine between Mannheim and Pforzheim without any driver input in response to Google’s announcement of testing of its own driverless car. Mercedes has developed technology which can scan the road ahead and behind with cameras and radar, and prompt a vehicle to pull out and overtake a large truck without a driver having to touch the steering wheel.

It now wants to introduce more automated driving features into its cars, such as automated parking, automatic stop-and-go driving in traffic and motorway driving functions. Eventually, it hopes to have cars with elaborate self-driving software that can be easily updated – like an iPhone – to take advantage of new technical capabilities or changes in the law.

However, moving from the test drives to marketable products was held back by Article 8 of the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic, which stipulates: “Every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle or to guide his animals.”

The amendment agreed last month by the U.N. Working Party on Road Traffic Safety would allow a car to drive itself, as long as the system “can be overridden or switched off by the driver”. A driver must be present and able to take the wheel at any time.

Provided the amendment clears all bureaucratic hurdles, all 72 countries that are party to the convention would have to work the new rules into their laws. The convention covers European countries, Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Russia, although not the United States, Japan or China.

About Carnectiv Team

Founded in 2013, Carnectiv was set up to develop a community with a love for cars, smart devices, digital media and innovation. When cars and digital high tech come together, some great new ideas emerge – this is driving the shape of the Connected Car. Carnectiv is formed by an independent team*, set up and operated by enthusiasts. We believe the success of the connected car depends hugely on capturing the imagination and support of app and service developers. We want Carnectiv.com to be an interesting place to come to for useful information, news and resources. Carnectiv depends upon the support of its visitors and friends: please continue to help us with ideas for news, blog and features for our resources section. Wherever possible, we also seek the support and sponsorship of connected car champions from the automotive, telecomms and IT industries. Our editorial team is proud of its independence, and we therefore highlight clearly any relevant sponsorships we may have in place. Be part of the Carnectiv!

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