On the roads: level 3 autonomous driving legalized at the start of the school year in France

Conduct without having your hands on the wheel will be possible, on French roads, from September 2022. Legislation will officially authorize, within a strict framework, the circulation of future vehicles equipped with level 3 automatic piloting.

Autonomous driving technology meets an international standard that is structured into five levels. Until now, only level 2 was authorized in France. It corresponds to a control now available on most new vehicles.

It is powered by features such as adaptive cruise control, maintaining safety distances, lane keeping assistance and autonomous braking. Still, at this stage, the driver is still required to keep his hands on the wheel in all circumstances.

Read your newspaper while being driven

In an attempt to move towards even more concrete autonomous driving, France and several other countries wanted to dust off the Vienna Convention somewhat. This text governs, since 1968road traffic in 37 states of the world.

Now, through article 34 bis, it legalizes level 3 autonomous driving in real conditions as of July 14, 2022. In France, the decree will normally be published at Official newspaper in the month of September.

Stage 3 marks a real evolution. Admittedly, it does not yet mean that the driver will be able to take a nap in the back seat. On the other hand, it will be possible for him to handle your phone or read your newspaper freelywithout putting your hands on the steering wheel since all the steering functions, including avoidance and overtaking manoeuvres, will be completely under the control of the vehicle.

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Driving without having your hands on the wheel will be possible on French roads from September 2022. (©andrey-popov / AdobeStock)

Strict regulations

However, it is important to specify that this authorization will obviously be accompanied by a strict regulatory framework. In France, initially, level 3 can only apply in a specific traffic context: on lanes without pedestrians or cyclists, on roads with a central divider between the directions of traffic, and in addition, at a speed not exceeding 60 km/h.

The driver, moreover, will be summoned to take the wheel as soon as the vehicle requests it via an alert. Otherwise, the on-board computer will trigger an automatic shutdown, theoretically in complete safety.

Note that in the event of an accident due to a fault in the autopilot, the legislation provides that it’s the builderand not the driver, who would be held responsible.

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The driver, moreover, will be ordered to take the wheel as soon as the vehicle requests it via an alert. (©zinetron / AdobeStock)

Stage 3 out of 5 thus seems rather well supervised. It remains to be defined how many car brands are able to offer such a level of on-board technology on a production model.

Mercedes, pioneer of level 3 in Europe

To date, only the new Mercedes S-Class received approval for level 3 driving in real conditions on the roads of the Old Continent. Other firms should nevertheless follow suit.

You’re here in particular, but provided that its “Autopilot” is updated and that it complies with the European highway code. We also know that BMW will present this year a 7 series equipped, in turn, with level 3.

Among the other manufacturers who are seriously studying the subject, we can mention Stellantis, which evokes a first car approved from 2024.

APEI-News. Louis-Cyril Tharaux

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