From January 23 to 25, 2019, the 57th German Traffic Court Conference took place. Ralf Johanning has prepared some topics for us. First topic: Automated driving.
The experts at the Traffic Court Conference in Goslar stated at their meeting that the current criminal law and the statutory provisions in the Road Traffic Act are basically sufficient. But there are still no concrete judgments.
In the opinion of the legal experts of the Traffic Court Conference, the current legal situation is sufficient for the operation of highly automated vehicles. This is ensured primarily by § 1b of the Road Traffic Act (StVG). Accordingly, the driver may turn away from the traffic and the control of the vehicle, but must remain attentive and ready to take over the control in an emergency again. And right here, the legal experts still need a lot of clarification, because the term is attentive is not clearly defined. This clarification will probably become duty of the courts in the future, when it comes to first accidents.
Dangers for designers, programmers and technical service providers
In principle, however, human behavior or the omission will be criminally responsible. Despite that situations in which the technical act, rather than the human, is responsible for the fulfillment of the facts, will be possible, at least according to the opinion of the lawyers. But that also means that in the future the manufacturer or his employees could be prosecuted. In particular, this would affect the designers and programmers. Added to this are the technical service providers involved in the data transfer. According to the experts, they are the ones responsible for the safety of automated driving technology. Here, however, there is still a wide gap in legal practice, because the extent of a possible objective breach of duty of care as well as a subjective predictability and avoidability are not nearly clear. There will still be much to do in this area in the future.
Blackbox should help
For a certain clarity to arise about whether man or machine has steered the vehicle when it came to an accident, a driving mode memory is to be introduced after § 63a StVG. The lawyers expressly welcome this introduction and, moreover, wish for highly automated and fully automated vehicles to have accident and event data storage. Previously, the box would record only time, position and driving mode. However, there are still missing empirical values. Therefore, there is still much to be clarified on the legal side for highly automated driving.