Federal Highway Research Institute


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Legal aspects of driver assistance systems

A historically evolved legislative framework regarding road traffic is now being called into question by driver assistance systems. The 1968 Vienna Agreement on road traffic underlying the German Highway Code already requires drivers to retain control of their vehicle at all times. As concerns vehicle approval laws, this is usually interpreted as a requirement for overriding driver assistance systems which are able to intervene in vehicle control.

In terms of legal liability, too, drivers' responsibilities are reflected in the German Road Traffic Regulations and secured through vehicle owner liability insurance. Owners' responsibilities – to be differentiated here – basically also encompass damage caused by technical failure. An introduction of driver assistance systems could thus increase owners' scope of liability.

At the same time, new systems need to account for manufacturers' legal product liability and its overlap with vehicle owner responsibility. This legal framework regarding liability and vehicle approval is of such great significance to driver assistance that it manifests itself identically in the case of numerous systems.

Other legal issues related to driver assistance systems sometimes depend so closely on the nature of technical developments alone, that they often only crystallize following actual implementation and cannot be addressed beforehand.