On 15 January 2019, the European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution on Autonomous driving in European transport. The resolution clearly recognises the benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), urges for further regulatory reform in this area, and calls for future EU policies and legislation to cover all modes of connected and automated transport (not just road transport).
The European Parliament resolution was passed with an overwhelming majority of 585 MEPs in favour, 85 against, and 26 abstaining. Meanwhile, the European Commission’s support for the CAV technology is apparent from its May 2018 policy strategy which aims to make the EU a world leader in this area. While differences may ultimately arise with regards to specific legislative proposals, this shows that two of the three main institutional actors in the EU – the Commission and the European Parliament (as well as many Member States) – clearly back Europe’s CAV future.
Key aspects of the European Parliament resolution
The European Parliament resolution notes that the development of autonomous vehicles will have significant benefits for the society, in particular that it will “reduce transports costs, improve road safety, increase mobility and reduce environmental impacts“. At the same time, the resolution recognises that this technology presents a variety of new risks and urges for the following action at EU level to address those risks:
Road safety: Recognising that the overwhelming majority of traffic accidents are caused by human error, there is a need to require the use of driver assistance systems in cars to increase road safety. Furthermore, event data recorders should be compulsory in automated vehicles to improve accident investigations and tackle the issue of liability. Similar requirements were included in the Commission’s legislative proposals from May 2018 (click here for our analysis of these proposals).
- Liability: Self-driving vehicles transfer the driving tasks from humans to automated technologies. Existing EU laws on liability and insurance (such as the Product Liability Directive 85/374 and the Motor Insurance Directive 2009/103) are not designed to deal with the new risks emerging from vehicle automation and connectivity. In particular, the rules on liability will need to evolve and clarify who – as between the driver and the manufacturer – is accountable in case of accidents. A possible solution could be the setting up of a no-fault insurance framework for damage resulting from autonomous vehicles.
- Data processing, data access and cyber security: EU data protection rules (such as the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679) apply to the automotive sector but there are currently no specific rules regarding data access or to protect self-driving vehicles against cyber attacks. There is a particular need to guarantee fair market access to in-vehicle data for independent servicing and repairs providers (such as parts manufacturers and repair centres), including by making them subject to the Motor Vehicles Block Exemption Regulation 461/2010. The Commission’s recommendations on access to in-vehicle data are upcoming.
- Ethics: EU ethics guidelines for artificial intelligence (AI) are currently being drafted by the Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI and are due to be published in March 2019). Given the general nature of the AI ethics guidelines, specific standards on ethics in the automated transport sector may also be necessary, including in order to increase the trust of Europeans in driverless vehicles.
- Standardisation and cross-border interoperability: Technical standards for vehicles and infrastructure (e.g. traffic signs or road markings) should be developed and aligned at international (in particular, within the framework of UNECE working groups), EU and national level. They should be based on the principles of an open, transparent and technology-neutral approach, increase road safety and ensure the interoperability of vehicles across borders.
- Regulation to cover all transport modes: EU policies and legislation concerning automated and connected transport should cover all transport modes, including short-sea shipping, inland waterway vessels, drones (transporting goods) and light rail systems.