Safety has top priority – also when it comes to legal issues.
Increased road safety and comfort as well as new mobility and logistics concepts – these are some examples of the chances experts see in automated and autonomous driving. “From a statistical point of view, about 90 percent of all accidents are caused by drivers, making human error the greatest accident risk nowadays”, says lawyer Klaus Schartel, who is – inter alia – responsible for questions relating to autonomous and connected driving at Daimler. “Automated vehicles have the advantage that they cannot be distracted and they do not get tired.”
Relieving stress on the driver is promising a great increase of comfort in situations where driving is not always joyful, for example in rush-hour traffic or traffic jams.
Great potential for the realisation of new mobility concepts
“Furthermore, automated and autonomous vehicle functions have a great potential for the realisation of new mobility concepts”, Schartel adds. “Under the collective term ‘Sharing economy’ car-sharing offers are being discussed, whereby the cars drive themselves to the customer.”
Klaus Schartel, Head of the unit Mergers and Acquisitions / Cooperations in the Daimler AG Legal Department
The technology is also very promising for the logistics branch. Systems are being developed that enable so-called “Platooning” – driving in convoy whereby several trucks driving close and connected to each another with the help of to an automatic control system. This saves fuel and space on the roads. Daimler Trucks has already demonstrated the diverse functions of Platooning on the road with the “Highway Pilot Connect” system.
Daimler pursuing a holistic approach
Daimler is accompanying the technical developments with a holistic approach. One focus lies on the legal aspects such as the question who is liable if an automated car is involved in an accident. “It is clear that at present, responsibility lies with the driver when he is supported by partial automated systems. He must still control the vehicle and intervene in case of an emergency”, Klaus Schartel states. “If the driver causes an accident, he or she is liable for the resulting damage, along with the owner of the vehicle. Manufacturers are responsible for damages that flow from product defects.” This three-pillar model is widely spread in Europe has proven itself in practice as it ensures a balanced distribution of risks as well as the protection of victims. It will also remain in place for the next development stages of automated driving.
If an autonomous vehicle is involved in an accident, it is important for those involved to know who caused the accident. In case of an accident, two pieces of information are required to determine this: was the system activated and if so, was it working properly. From a technical point of view, two solutions could contribute to legal certainty: “To avoid difficulties in providing proof, a simple driving mode memory would suffice”, states Schartel. “It registers whether an automated system was turned on or not. There should be a legal regulation on this, which we would welcome.” In order to reconstruct an accident, an event data recorder could collect the relevant data and save the data exclusively for this purpose.
Both mechanisms must be as data economical as possible, says Schartel, and meet high requirements regarding data protection and data security.
Safety as an indisputable requirement
As things currently stand, there are still various questions that need to be clarified on the road to autonomous driving. Within this context, there is an indisputable requirement for Daimler: “When discussing and thinking about possible products of the future, the safety of all road users has top priority. This is a premise that Daimler has always followed and which will also be maintained by the company in the case of autonomous driving. As lawyers at Daimler, we are involved even at an early stage in product development because safety and legal certainty go hand in hand.”