How Germany Hopes to Get the Edge in Driverless Technology

With its requirement that autonomous vehicles be overseen by humans, the German law reflects a realization in the industry that researchers are still years away from cars that can safely allow the driver to disengage while the car does all the work. The law also requires that autonomous vehicles operate in a defined space approved by the authorities, an acknowledgment that the technology is not advanced enough to work safely in areas where traffic is chaotic and unpredictable…

Raj Rajkumar, who leads the autonomous driving program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which has produced many of the leading scientists in the field, said the new legislation would give German companies an advantage. But he said he was concerned that the United States and Europe were both at risk of falling behind China in technology and regulations.

“There is an international arms race between the U.S., Europe and China,” said Mr. Rajkumar, who estimates that fully autonomous vehicles are still a decade away. “China is an authoritarian country. They can pass any rules they want overnight.”