Innovation and Technology

Networked and automated driving

Technological advancements on the road to automation are already showing up today in modern vehicles, which are increasingly equipped with driver assistance systems (DAS).

Innovation leadership of the German automotive industry

Today, mobility systems face many challenges: globalization and urbanization lead to rapid growth in traffic and may bring transport systems to their limits in capacity. By 2050, 70 percent of all people will live in cities. The number of cars is expected to double. Automation and networking, however, offer the chance to meet these global challenges successfully, because driving would become efficient, safe and environmentally friendly. German manufacturers and suppliers wish to further expand their innovation leadership through automated and networked driving. 

In its strategy for automated and networked driving, the federal government has also set the goal of ensuring Germany’s pioneering role in this technology. Automated and networked driving will be brought to the road: from the test runs, through development, to serial production and to regulatory approval. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has defined the following areas of action in which the necessary conditions for the new technology will be created: Infrastructure law, innovation, networking, as well as IT security and data protection.

Legal and political framework

Currently, nonexistent, incomplete or different national legislative approaches still form a major obstacle on the path to the market introduction of automated and especially autonomous vehicles. Therefore, the goal of the legislatures should be the creation of the regulatory framework. The harmonization of the various rules is in the best interests of a functioning European internal market. To this end, the federal government has announced its strategy for automated and networked driving. 

The prevailing road traffic law does not take into account the different levels of automation. However, national legislative changes are not absolutely necessary. The legislature does not distinguish, in principal, between the technical automation levels. In fact, two cases should be distinguished: On one hand, there are situations where there is a driver, who may partially need to or could potentially take over the driving (automated systems); and on the other hand, there are situations in which the driver is just a passenger, or there is no driver (autonomous systems). Therefore, changes are needed to the rules in force. The existing regulations – particularly the Road Transport Law and the Road Traffic Act – however, do not specifically prohibit the use of automated systems. In the case of an accident, however, the use of the systems could be currently considered a breach of the driver’s duty. This uncertainty should be resolved quickly. 

As a basis for national regulations, the Vienna Convention on road transport was adapted in October, 2015. It changed a previous regulation, according to which drivers had to control their vehicles at all times. The convention now allows automated systems to influence the driving of a vehicle – but only if they could be overruled or turned off at any time by the driver. A first legal basis has been created by this change in the international convention. The VDA advocates that national legislators must now implement this and allow automated driving. 

However, the Vienna Convention still requires that each vehicle must have a driver. Thus, the operation of autonomously driven vehicles without drivers is not possible in the current situation. However, the working group is already working on road safety under the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), in a further expansion of the convention, so in the future autonomous systems could also be permitted. 

In addition, other international technical regulations (UN-RRegulations) need to be revised. This particularly includes the UN Regulation on Steering Systems (UN-R 79). This is because a core feature of automated driving is that the vehicle drives on its own to follow the road or to overtake. UN-R 79 currently provides for automatic steering, but only up to a speed of 10 km/h. This speed limit should be repealed. 

An adaptation of the existing liability laws is not needed for automated driving systems. This is because in case of accidents due to automated driving systems, a comprehensive liability coverage is provided by the owner liability or the manufacturer’s product liability. Insofar as the driver is legally responsible for driving, they are liable in the case of their fault. The liability model described has already proven itself in many automotive innovations and is therefore technologically neutral. For cases, where driver liability should be excluded from the operation of an automated driving system, the statutory maximum amount of liability could be raised in order to avoid potential liability gaps. Only when a system completely takes over the driving task and the driver is a mere passenger, might it be necessary to fundamentally review the rules on liability.


The number of driver assistance systems, that can assist the driver in the driving task, has continued to increase in recent years. There has been a perception that autonomous vehicles may soon be technically feasible. It is much more likely, however, that this development will take place in an evolutionary manner. Automated functions will be developed gradually on the basis of established driver assistance systems and incorporated into more and more new cars. Drivers will be guided step-by-step towards automation. 

Automated driving is expected to be initially practically applied on the highway and in garages. Despite the fast speeds on federal highways, traffic is comparably structured. In parking garages, however, speeds are very slow, which make the situation controllable despite the high complexity. In both cases, a vehicle can detect its surroundings with its own sensors, and the situations are easily controllable. It is obvious that further innovations must be tested, such as the extension of the application of automated functions in the urban environment. The federal government has therefore launched initiatives such as the Digital Test Field Highway that will be extended by urban test fields.


The networking of vehicles together with the environment and the infrastructure creates completely new possibilities that go far beyond traditional driving functions. Particularly, the features of automatic driving can only be fully developed through networking. Individual vehicles could receive information that go far beyond the range of vision of the human eye and the onboard sensors. This communication may be between vehicles (vehicle-to-vehicle, V2V), between vehicles and the infrastructure (vehicle-to-infrastructure, V2I) as well as between vehicles and IT centers of control centers (vehicle-to-IT-backend, V2B). As a generic term for communication of vehicles with various recipients, the term vehicle-to-X (V2X) is used. 

Communication technologies comprise the basis for networking. In the European CAR 2 CAR Communications Consortium (C2C-CC), automobile manufacturers and suppliers work together with research institutes on technologies for V2X communication. They have already developed and tested a standard for automobile Wi-Fi – the so-called ITS-5G standard. The technology allows direct and instantaneous communication. Vehicle manufacturers in the consortium have announced a market launch slated for 2019. However, the infrastructure should also be fitted out with ITS-5G at the right time. 

Today, vehicles are equipped with mobile radio – but only for communication with the stationary IT centers of the manufacturers. For fast and reliable data transfer between vehicles and the infrastructure, mobile radio is not yet mature enough. However, in principle, the future 5G mobile standard should be suitable for this. 5G has the potential to quickly and reliably transmit information while driving, as is possible with ITS-5G-Wi-Fi. However, 5G technology is still at the research or advanced development stage. It is not yet clear when 5G Mobile radio for V2X communication will be ready for market. 

Well-known business models in the automotive industry have been greatly transformed through networking and digitization. The new digital markets are fundamentally different from the known product markets: the competition for data and the data interface now more than ever determines market share. It is therefore vital that there is fair competition on these digital markets. We need an industrial policy, which limits the dominant actors and ensures competitive opportunities for European industries. It should be especially noted that policy decisions regarding access to vehicle data also involve industrial policy issues.

Data protection

Modern vehicles already need and produce a variety of data. Because of the growing trend of information technology equipment of motor vehicles, their connection to the Internet and the networking of road users to each other, this trend will continue. Digitization and networking bring, in addition to advantages in traffic safety and comfor at the same time, risks for the individual rights of vehicle users, which has been encountered by the automotive industry. 

In 2014, the VDA published its Data Protection Principles for Connected Vehicles. Subsequently, the data protection authorities of the federal and state governments, with the VDA, developed a declaration on data protection aspects in the use of networked and non-networked vehicles and published it in January 2016. The following topics were covered in the joint declaration: 

  • The personal nature of the data accumulated in the vehicle
  • Determination of the point in time of data collection
  • Determination of the responsible body
  • Legal basis for data handling in the motor vehicle
  • Data protection right to information against the manufacturer
  • Sovereignty over the data processing operations in the vehicle 

The data protection authorities and the VDA agree that data arising from the use of a car is personal, if there is a link with the vehicle identification number or the license plate. For the determination of the timing of data collection and the responsible entity, it must be distinguished whether data is received immediately (online) or later (offline). The declaration clearly notes that vehicle owners have a gratuitous right to information and stored personal data against the manufacturer. In addition, the onboard computer of the vehicles will provide information on the main issues for data processing. The VDA will continue the dialogue with the data protection authorities to further questions of data protection in automated and networked vehicles.

Graham Smethurst
Graham Smethurst Head of Co-ordination Unit Networked and Automated Driving

Tel: +49 30 897842-426 Fax: +49 30 897842-7426
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