Germany’s transport ministry looks set to introduce legislation which would require data recorders, similar to an aircraft black box, to be fitted to all vehicles with autonomous capabilities.
The proposal, as reported by Reuters, is only in its early stages, but would also include a stipulation that drivers remain behind the wheel to resume control in an emergency; they won't, however, be required to remain attentive at all times.
Data recorders will retain vehicle data during autonomous operation, and in instances where the vehicle has requested the driver take over.
The move to more tightly control the autonomous vehicle industry comes after the first recorded fatality in an Autopilot equipped Tesla Models S in the United States.
In that instance the vehicle collided with a turning semi trailer that it failed to detect, while reports indicate that the driver may have been watching a movie at the time instead of monitoring the system.
Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system is able to maintain vehicle speed, keep a safe distance behind slow-moving vehicles, maintain a vehicle’s lane position, and even change lanes when prompted by the driver.
The system itself is in a stage of development known as public beta testing, essentially ready for release, but technically not completely finished.
With automakers rushing to introduce vehicles capable of shouldering the burden of driving, more governments are expected to introduce legislation regarding the usage (and possible data retention) of such systems.
China has recently placed a ban on the testing of autonomous systems on its highway network. The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is working to draft a set of regulations around the use of vehicle autonomy.
A timeline for the introduction of the new regulations in China has yet to be revealed, with industry fears that if the Chinese government restricts autonomous testing for too long, the implementation of autonomous vehicles may be slowed globally.