Germany will be number 1 internationally in autonomous driving: at least that was what the Federal Ministry of Transport (BMVI) claimed on Wednesday in a post on a draft law on this subject that was approved by the government’s cabinet on the same day. Germany will be the first country in the world to “bring autonomous vehicles from research laboratories onto the road,” Minister Andreas Scheuer is quoted as saying. That sounds as if Tesla will be able to use the capabilities of its hardware and FSD software for future autonomous driving in Germany at an early stage. But the situation is more complicated.
Tesla boss sees autonomy this year
According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, all of the company’s electric cars produced today are equipped with all of the sensor and computer hardware required for fully autonomous driving (also known as level or level 5). Only the software has to get better. Like the targeted result, the current beta version for this is called FSD (for Full Self-Driving) and, according to current statements by Musk, has been tested by a good 1000 people in the USA. Tesla drivers in this beta test regularly report impressive but not yet perfect performances.
By the end of 2020, Musk actually wanted to be so far that a million Teslas would have the technical ability to drive around autonomously as “robotaxis” and earn money for their owners, as he announced when the FSD computer was presented in April 2019. This date has passed, but the Tesla boss remains optimistic: He is extremely confident that he will be able to achieve full Tesla autonomy in 2021 and release it for customers, he said in December 2020. According to Musk, another question is when such a system will be available System is approved by the regulatory authorities. But in this respect too, he assumed that this would happen in at least some countries this year.
Could one of them be Germany? Although Musk recently mentioned that, in his opinion, progress was the slowest in Europe with autonomy rules, the current report from the German scrubbing ministry sounds more offensive. The new law should make Germany the first country in the world to “bring vehicles without drivers out of research into everyday life,” it says. It should be decided by the Bundestag and Bundesrat by mid-2021 and has the goal of “bringing vehicles with autonomous driving functions into regular operation by 2022”.
Law for “defined operational areas”
However, the video accompaniment in the BMVI report suggests that Scheuer is thinking of completely different autonomous driving than Tesla boss Musk. The Minister is shown, among other things, in the driver’s seat of a BMW, the steering wheel of which he repeatedly demonstratively does not hold in his hand. An Audi can occasionally be seen from the outside, and once the camera shows a trunk full of special technology. As Scheuer explains in an interview sequence, these scenes do not take place on normal roads, but in a test field for autonomous driving that Germany, France and Luxembourg opened in 2019 in the three-way border region around Schengen in Saarland.
This corresponds to the autonomy vision pursued by almost all companies in this area with the exception of Tesla: Your vehicles should find their way around themselves, but only in a defined environment that is precisely mapped in advance and perhaps even technical aids for the robot Provides cars. Musk, on the other hand, wants to have his Teslas drive wherever people can cope, i.e. without previous measurements using cameras and highly developed FSD intelligence.
According to its own report, the BMVI wants to use the new law to enable autonomous driving up to level 4, i.e. cars that can be driven without a human driver. Unlike the highest level 5, which Tesla is aiming for according to Musk, the passengers can still initiate an emergency stop. Even that would go beyond what Tesla’s autopilot is allowed to do today, regardless of its capabilities. But as the ministry also writes, the law provides for a local limit “to a specified operating area”, so it plays into the hands of Tesla competitors. In addition, the text on the draft refers to the fact that its “authorization by the European Commission cannot be assessed”.