More than 50 countries, including Japan, South Korea and the EU member states, have agreed common regulations for vehicles that can take over some driving functions. The binding rules on Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) will come into force in January 2021. Among other regulations, having a black box is mandatory.
This is the first binding international regulation on so-called “Level 3” vehicle automation. Often referred to as “eyes-off” vehicles, it allows the driver to safely turn his attention away from the driving tasks, e.g. the driver can use a smartphone or watch a movie, etc.
Level 3 is not fully autonomous; it is the so-called Conditional Automation. The driver is not required to be ready for quickly intervening – the system will handle situations that call for an immediate response, like emergency braking. The driver must still be prepared to intervene within some limited time, whencalled upon by the vehicle to do so.
The next, Level 4 is so-called High Automation. At this level, no driver attention is ever required for safety, e.g. the driver may safely go to sleep or leave the driver’s seat. The system must be able to safely abort the trip or park the car, if the driver does not retake control after the signal.
At Level 5, vehicles are fully autonomous; no human intervention is required at all. the vehicle can deal all driving modes on the road, and if necessary, stop driving.
Japan and Germany are the main authors of new regulations. Japan will apply the regulations as soon as they come into force. The European Union would apply at an unspecified later date.
The United States is not part of the rules but its car manufacturers would have to follow the new regulations in order to sell Level 3 vehicles in Japan, for example.
The rules ensure the ALKS can only be activated on roads equipped with a physical separation dividing traffic moving in opposite directions, where pedestrians and cyclists are prohibited.
The new rules also establish a speed limit of 60 kilometres per hour. The regulations also require vehicles to be equipped with a Data Storage System for Automated Driving – the so-called “black box” – which will record when ALKS are activated.
Car manufacturers must also introduce Driver Availability Recognition Systems, which monitor the driver’s capability to take back control of the vehicle, including through spotting eye blinking and closure.
ALKS will also need to comply with cyber-security and software update requirements. These are two other new UN regulations adopted in summer 2020.