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Autonomous cars to hit German roads but safety's still on drivers

The new law is rather strict in terms of safety, which is sort of expected, being a German law and all.


While the US might seem like the Mecca of self-driving-car development right now, the rest of the world isn't keen to let an opportunity like this pass them by.

Germany's upper house of parliament approved a law permitting autonomous vehicles on German roads, Reuters reports. In order to keep up with technological developments and cover issues that weren't fully addressed the first time around, the law will be revised in two years' time.

While some US states permit the testing of completely driverless vehicles, Germany will require a driver behind the wheel at all times, in case the vehicle has to pass control to a human. A black box must record every journey, including data regarding who is driving (computer or human) and when switches occur between the two.

When it comes to liability, it's on the driver. If a collision occurs on a human's watch, that specific human will be considered at fault. If a collision occurs while the car is operating autonomously, and the fault can be attributed to the system, then the manufacturer will assume liability.

This law should be a huge benefit for the myriad German automakers that are hard at work developing autonomous vehicles and refining current semi-autonomous systems. Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW are all getting involved in autonomy, and being able to test vehicles on home turf sure sounds more convenient than schlepping everything out of the country.