The prospect of the development of fully autonomous cars is gradually becoming a reality. Worldwide, automobile manufacturers and technology firms are working on driving system innovation.
For the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the development of advanced automated vehicle safety technologies, including self-driving cars, may prove to be the greatest personal transportation revolution.
According to the European Commission, automated driving will increase road safety significantly, as human error is involved in more than 90% of all traffic accidents on Europe’s roads; in which more than 40 000 people are killed and 1.5 million injured every year. Being an important part of the Internet of Things (IoT), intelligent transport systems and connected vehicles will not only increase road safety can also help reduce congestion and raise fuel efficiency (European Parliament, Briefing, January 2016).
However, this technology may raise many concerns about their security and safety due to possible security vulnerabilities.
Following the investigation of US Authorities on Tesla Autopilot crashes, in September 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation published the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, which aims at defining the Guidance that should be considered by all individuals and companies manufacturing, designing, testing, and/or planning to sell automated vehicle systems in the United States. In this regard, President Obama said, “The quickest way to slam the brakes on innovation is for the public to lose confidence in the safety of new technologies.” (source: roboticslawjournal.com).
The European Union, instead, does not seem to be ready to issue any common rules on self-driving vehicles that would govern coordinately this innovation, even thought the EU has funded projects across Europe in research and development of driverless cars, and it is perfectly aware that the potential impact of the deployment of automated vehicles raises many other issues related to legal framework for road safety, infrastructure and technical standards; data processing, and liability issue.
The lack of cooperation in the EU among the member states could give rise to many different rules, preventing the development of this technology on large- scale.
In this regards, in July 2016, the Economic Commission for Europe, Inland Transport Committee, Working Party on Road Traffic Safety highlighted that some European countries are drafting laws and regulation related to the automated vehicles. In particular, the UK representative reported about the Queen’s 2016 speech with regard to autonomous vehicles (“Modern Transport Bill”). The representative of the Netherlands explained that his country is currently drafting a new legislation for testing of automated vehicles. The representative from Spain informed that they are currently writing a new version of code of code for vehicles (this code basically sets the conditions and requirements for vehicles, their registration and life-cycle, see attached document for more information), with a chapter dedicated to automated vehicles, aiming at opening the door to the new technologies. It is expected that this Code will be enacted by 2017. The expert from Finland informed that there is a procedure for the testing of automated vehicles in Finland. He clarified that the text was accepted in March 2016. The chair, as representative from France, anticipated that in August 2016 there will be binding rules for testing.
Italy does not seem to have yet taken any action regarding the amendment of “The Highway Code”, or the adoption of a plan concerning the development and test of driverless cars. Taking into account that the advent of connected and ‘autonomous’ technology in vehicles offers enormous opportunities in term of safety and represents a significant area of interest and investment in the global automotive industry, we wish that Italy may issue the appropriate measures on this topic, despite the delay of the EU and the lack of coordination among member states.