France to amend legislation for autonomous vehicle trials

03 April 2018

France to amend legislation for autonomous vehicle trials

3 April 2018

France is establishing a legislative framework that will allow the testing of autonomous cars on public roads by 2019.

Under details announced by President Emmanuel Macron, Level 4 vehicles, those with almost total autonomy, will be used on roads around the country with no human operator behind the wheel, as the current legislation requires. The government hopes the plans will push France to the forefront of autonomous technology in vehicles.

Currently, only certain companies can test driverless vehicles in the country, and while these are conducted on public roads, this is heavily restricted to time and location, to ensure there is no risk to ordinary members of the public. With the legislative framework announced for 2019, the scope of geographical experimentation is likely to be expanded and therefore will be likely to present increasingly varied driving situations which is key in development.

‘From the beginning of next year we will have the legislative framework authorising the experiments that will be included in the future Pact law,’ said the President of the Republic. ’By 2022, France will also have a regulatory framework allowing the circulation of autonomous vehicles.

‘So far France has been lagging behind in terms of the experimentation and development of self-driving cars,’ he added. ‘France is a leading country regarding car manufacturing, historically. At the beginning of the 80s, our German neighbours made better choices, but we can take back our position thanks to self-driving cars and refining a framework.’

The announcement is part of a package of measures the French President announced to ensure the country becomes a key player in the global artificial intelligence market. With a €1.2 billion package, he hopes France will attract the best researchers, create an international centre of excellence and develop a data policy that will allow expansion of the technology and research within.

Vehicle manufacturers are developing driverless vehicles with Level 4 and 5 autonomy and believe such technology could be ready for sale by 2022. In France, it is expected that by this year, the first examples of the technology fit for full public use will be shuttle pods or robo-taxis. Such trials are already being undertaken in London, as the UK also plans to become a leader in the technology.

The move comes at a time when the autonomous vehicle market is facing a number of challenges. Tesla has recently confirmed that an accident in which a driver died took place while a vehicle was in its ‘AutoPilot’ mode, and Uber has recently settled with the family of a woman who was killed when a Volvo being tested in autonomous mode hit her as she crossed a road.

There is also some unease over use of the technology, with a recent Autovista Group Poll showing that 41% of respondents would be unwilling to give full driving control to a vehicle.