EU paves the way for self-driving cars to take to the roads

7 Jul 2022

Concept of a Volkswagen self-driving vehicle. Image: © franz12/

The EU is developing technical rules that would allow 1,500 fully driverless vehicles per car model to be registered and sold in a member state each year.

The European Commission is taking new steps to get automated and fully self-driving cars onto EU roads.

It plans to make technical rules this summer to ensure that automated vehicles are safe and technologically mature before they are placed on the market.

The rules will focus in particular on automated vehicles replacing the driver on motorways and fully driverless vehicles such as urban shuttles or robotaxis. These driverless vehicles are known as level-four automation, which means a vehicle can perform all driving functions under certain conditions but a driver can still take control if required.

The new EU legislation will regulate areas such as testing procedures, cybersecurity requirements, data recording rules, safety performance monitoring and incident report requirements.

The European Commission said these will be the first international rules of their kind.

“Europe is making sure that this technology improves our citizens’ daily life, and that the automotive industry has a predictable and safe framework to continue rolling out innovative technology solutions and maintain its global competitiveness,” commissioner Thierry Breton said yesterday (6 July).

The proposed regulation will allow 1,500 fully driverless vehicles per carmaker model to be registered and sold each year. This limit will be applied for each EU member country, an EU official told Politico.

The plans are part of new vehicle safety rules that came into effect in the EU yesterday. The Vehicle General Safety Regulation has introduced mandatory systems to improve road safety, such as emergency stop signals, speed assistant systems and reversing detection with cameras or sensors.

These rules will first apply to new vehicle types and then to all new vehicles from July 2024. Some of the new measures will also be expanded to cover different kinds of road vehicles until 2029.

“The new advanced and mandatory safety features will further help reduce the number of casualties,” said commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “We are also making sure that our rules enable us to safely introduce autonomous and driverless vehicles in the EU in a framework that puts the safety of people at the centre.”

The tech behind self-driving cars has advanced significantly in recent years, causing regulators to take steps to prepare for their arrival. In April, the UK revealed planned changes to its highway code to pave the way for fully self-driving cars to hit the roads as soon as the second half of this year.

Tech company Sensible 4 has been putting its self-driving software to the test in Europe with the recent launch of a transport service north of the Arctic Circle, where the tech will face a subpolar climate and challenging weather conditions.

In June, self-driving car business Cruise became the first to secure approval to operate a commercial taxi service using driverless cars in California. But this service has not been without its issues.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic