No doubt I do driverless and self-driving vehicles represent the future of the car segment. Almost all automakers are working on their own version of driverless cars, ranging from Tesla and Lexus to Ford and Toyota. But legislation at the global level is not keeping pace with technology.
American case studies
In the United States, the size of the global autonomous vehicle market has been estimated at $ 556.67 billion by 2026, and there will be 4.5 million self-driving cars on the roads by 2035.
As technology evolves and the use of such vehicles spreads, the need to regulate the legal consequences of their use will grow.
The National Law Review reports in an article of May 5, 2021, four allegations involving the driverless cars:
On April 17, 2021, a Tesla accident caused a fire that lasted four hours and required over 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish it.
In 2018, a 2012 Tesla Model S spontaneously caught fire while driving in West Hollywood, California. There was no personal injury in this incident, but note that there was no collision that triggered the fire.
In 2018, a 2014 Tesla Model S crashed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, bursting into flames and killing two people, and a third was seriously injured.
In 2017, a driver lost control of a 2016 Tesla X SUV and crashed into a garage, after which the battery caught fire and the flames spread throughout the building.
Elon Musk’s position
In April 2021, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted accident data, which he said showed that self-driving Tesla cars were nearly ten times less likely to have an accident than an average vehicle.
Company data cited by Musk showed that on average, there was one accident for every 4.19 million miles (6.74 million km) traveled on autopilot and one for every 2.05 million miles (3.29 million km) for Teslas in use of active safety features such as automatic braking and collision warning at blind spots.
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Vienna Convention on Road Traffic
A document was signed in 1968 in Vienna to regulate international road traffic, to which most of the world’s countries have acceded. This treaty is inspired by and adapted to the national laws governing traffic (motorway rules). The beginning is actually the following: “The Contracting Parties have agreed on the following provisions with a view to facilitating international road traffic and increasing road safety through the adoption of uniform rules of the road: (…)”.
The International Conference convened by the United Nations and held in Vienna from October 7 to November 8, 1968, was intended to update the Geneva Convention. 66 countries participated in the event, in addition to five as observers. Also present were delegates from nineteen non-governmental organizations.
The effective date of entry into force of the Convention was 21 May 1977, while the update is subject to Art. 49, where the automatic updating is ordered, ie entry into force after 18 months from the date of notification of any proposed amendment which has not been officially rejected by more than one third of the Contracting States.
Driverless car at start: from 14 July, automatic driving is no longer prohibited
From 14 July, Article 34-bis enters into force, which implements the rules dictated by the Vienna Convention on Traffic with the concept of “automatic driving system”, which removes obstacles to assistance systems that allow the driver to leave the steering wheel under certain conditions (starting with Level 3 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems).
The same convention states that automatic driving will be able to leave the current experimental state or in any case be restricted only if it is implemented by national law. But for an effective operation, many states, including Italy, have not legislated why the principle at present actually remains on paper.
The French bus
The first European vehicle to be allowed to circulate fully autonomously on public roads since March 2021 was a French bus (shuttle EZ10). This was announced by Tom Bateman on December 1, 2021. The French Minister of Transport and the Minister of Ecological Transition had previously approved the use of the bus without a human assistant on board. This authorization made EasyMile the first driverless vehicle manufacturer in Europe to be allowed to use an autonomous shuttle between other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, unattended on board and on public roads.
Although human surveillance on board is no longer required, the shuttle may still be subject to “remote surveillance”, so in the future a single control center will be able to control a fleet of several autonomous vehicles.
The removal of the human supervisor means that the EZ10 shuttle runs at level 4 of the Society of Engineers (SAE) automation scale: at that level, a vehicle is able to operate autonomously within a number of constraints, such as running on a fixed path of 600 meters.
By comparison, the fully autonomous driving function in a Tesla electric car is level 2 on the SAE scale. This classifies it as “partial automation”, meaning that a person must always remain engaged in driving the vehicle.
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