Keep Your AIs on the Road: New Law Requires European Vehicles to Come with Automated Features

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EU badge in a vehicle's hood

The European Union passed a law that requires new vehicles to come equipped with automated safety features.

What’s new: The new Vehicle General Safety Regulation compels manufacturers of new vehicles to include as standard features automatic speed control, collision avoidance, and lane-keeping. The systems cannot collect biometric data, and drivers must be able to switch them off. The law, which does not apply to two- or three wheeled vehicles, will take effect in July 2024.

How it works: Some requirements apply to all vehicles. Others govern light and heavy commercial vehicles:

  • All vehicles must implement speed assistance. They must monitor safe and legal driving speed based on road signs, weather conditions, and other external cues. They must also provide feedback to speeding drivers (for instance an audio warning or reverse pressure on the acceleration pedal) In addition, they must detect when nearby vehicles drive in reverse.
  • All vehicles must monitor drivers for distraction and drowsiness.
  • They must keep a record of the vehicle’s state similar to an aircraft’s black box.
  • Passenger cars and light commercial vehicles such as vans must include automatic lane keeping and braking to avoid collisions.
  • Heavy commercial vehicles such as buses and trucks must implement warnings for lane keeping and braking; automated control is not required. They must detect hazards in blind spots and provide warnings of potential collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.

Behind the news: Automated safety features are increasingly common. In the U.S., 30 percent of new vehicles sold in the fourth quarter of 2020 were able to accelerate, decelerate, and steer on their own.

  • The European Parliament plans later this year to legalize the sale of up to 1,500 fully autonomous vehicles per model per year.
  • Canada is exploring a requirement that new cars include automated braking, lane keeping, and speed assistance.
  • U.S. lawmakers proposed a law that would require driver-monitoring systems.

Why it matters: The European Commission estimates that 19,800 people died in road accidents in 2021. AI-powered safety features may help the governing body reach its goal of halving road fatalities by 2030 and eliminating them altogether by 2050.

We’re thinking: Although these regulations were designed to address important safety concerns, some of them, such as automatic speed monitoring and feedback, can also reduce vehicle emissions, which would be good for the planet.

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