Autonomous Driving and Tech Policy: The European Challenge

European Union
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As the electric vehicles wave arises, autonomous driving will ultimately follow. What this new technology can bring to our safety on the roads, and is the European Union ready for it? │ Source: Frederic Koberl

95% of accidents are caused by humans

95%… this is the number announced by the European Commission in its 2016 report: Saving Lives: Boosting Car Safety in the EU. While this number can appear enormous considering animal crossing roads, landslides and floods, almost all car accidents are caused by us, humans.

The reasons behind car accidents are difficult to evaluate. But some are more difficult to regulate than others, such as alcohol usage and drugs. While many laws successfully brought down the numbers of deaths on the road caused by alcohol, it is still very difficult to completely forbid people to get behind the wheel after alcohol consumption, as police forces will never be enough to control every corner of every country.

European countries are fighting to bring the number of road fatalities down, and the new wave of autonomous vehicles could be a solution to this problem, with benefits such as enhanced road safety, reduction of congestion and more inclusive mobility.

But while these new technologies are certainly promising, their implementation in the legal space could be trickier than expected.

Regulation challenges and social acceptability

In the next decade, most of the top 11 global automakers are expected to launch autonomous vehicles on the market.

If this trend is confirmed, the regulation process needs to follow in order to allow these new models to populate Europe’s roads, and all countries need to agree on common rules.

Some of the main challenges defined by the European Parliament to create a legal framework for autonomous vehicules include :

  • Road Safety
  • Liability Issues
  • Data Processing
  • Ethics
  • Infrastructure
Data centers will play a key partSource: imgix

In this new world, in constant change, law drafting can be slow while technology moves fast.

The general public opinion may also vary from country to country regarding the issue, as some European states may not be ready to implement these laws, and local road infrastructures cannot support such advancements yet.

Recently recorded accidents may even have pushed public opinion away from such technologies, as some horrific crashes were recorded and went viral online.

“The public needs to be involved in decisions about the introduction and adoption of self-driving vehicles. Without this, we risk the rejection of this technology.” – Misha Ketchell

How can the EU accelerate the policy development?

While most European countries are drafting their laws regarding autonomous driving at their own pace, the European Commission is working on coordination of efforts with all EU countries. The goal being a more efficient data collection process accross the continent.

Another goal will be to expand autonomous driving regulation to other modes of transportation such as boats, large transport trucks and flying vehicles.

The EU governing organs will also have to bring trust and proof to citizens that the technology will bring more safety to all.

Autonomous driving in Europe: the years ahead.

Benefits are clear: Safer roads, better accessibility, new jobs and environment protection

Tesla is the main actor in development of autonomous vehiclesSource: Jannes Glas

But challenges are greater: Europe needs its proper financing system for developing autonomous vehicles, more efficient integration of markets and unique regulation on data privacy and tech innovation.

The goal is to avoid depending entirely on US technology, said French President Emmanuel Macron in a recent interview. Having EU data, EU cloud centers and EU developed technology will be a key factor for the years to come.


PS: We would love to hear from you! Are you ready for the autonomous driving revolution?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments section!


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of SparkTogether or its members.

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