UN panel gives the green light for autonomous driving in the near future

Computer-controlled cars could soon be traveling at high speeds, for example on freeways.

The international panel of experts for automated and networked driving at the UN Economic Commission (UNECE) has agreed to increase the maximum speed for autonomous driving in certain traffic situations from 60 to 130 kilometers per hour, as UNECE reported on Thursday in Geneva. Lane changes should also be allowed.

Approval from World Forum is considered a formality

The proposal still needs to be approved by the UNECE World Forum for the Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, which will meet on June 21-24. The approval is considered a formality. The rule would then come into effect after about six months. More than 50 countries around the world are part of the agreement, including EU countries. The USA, China and others regulate autonomous driving according to their own standards.

“The EU has already signaled in the working group that it wants to implement the new provision,” said Francois Guichard, secretary of the expert panel, of the German Press Agency. “It’s possible that consumers will be able to drive such cars in a year or two.”

Mercedes Benz first German manufacturer

In Germany, Mercedes-Benz is the first manufacturer to start with a car that can drive autonomously at times up to a speed of 60 kilometers per hour – and is also responsible for this time instead of the driver. According to the usual classification, this is Level 3 for autonomous driving, while driving assistants, where the human is still responsible at the wheel, still fall under Level 2. Mercedes wants to deliver the first ordered vehicles with the “Drive Pilot” system in the summer. Honda is also on the market in Japan with such a car.

An adjustment to the UN rules would basically mean that a Level 3 system for speeds of more than 60 kilometers per hour could be offered internationally, as a Mercedes spokesman explained. However, the national road traffic laws must also allow the operation of a corresponding system, which in Germany is ultimately certified by the Federal Motor Vehicle Office (KBA). Mercedes designed the system architecture in such a way that the speed ranges could be gradually expanded.

Autonomous driving has been severely restricted so far

In Germany, for example, automated driving has so far been limited to certain traffic situations on the Autobahn, such as traffic jams. In critical situations such as tunnels or when there is a risk of black ice, which cars automatically detect using cameras and sensors, drivers would be alerted and autonomous driving would be suspended. In the USA, however, some states such as California and Arizona also allow the operation of autonomous vehicles on the road – not only on a test basis, but also as commercial robotaxi services with some restrictions.

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