hands-free driving will be allowed from September 1 in France

From September 1, 2022, level 3 autonomous driving will be allowed in France. In this article, we will get under what conditions drivers will be able to take advantage of, and the legal consequences of using this technology.

Credit: Tesla

We talked about it in our columns in July 2022. Since July 14, 2022, level 3 autonomous driving has been approved in the countries of the European Union. On this date, Article 34-Bis of the Vienna Convention, which prescribes the circulation of vehicles in Member States, was amended to allow the use of this technology.

However, it was clarified each country must legislate to confirm the measure on its national roads. But as for France, autonomous driving will be permitted from 1 September 2022. Note that the information is not new, as a decree adopted in July 2021 was adopted precisely to prepare the arrival of level 3 autonomous driving in France.

For the occasion, changes have also been made to the Traffic Act and the Transport Act. In this article we will see what the level 3 autonomous driving license means in France.

The consequences of hands-free driving in France

First of all, it should be remembered that only level 2 autonomous driving was allowed in France until then. This step consists of two main features: adaptive cruise control and lane assistant. Here, drivers must not take their hands off the wheel, as the technology does not allow the car to be controlled without a driver.

Gold, level 3 provides partial autonomy since the user is able to let go of the steering wheel. This is the system that handles the majority of driving-related tasks. However, the driver is encouraged to be alert in order to regain control in the event of a problem.

Read also: Autonomous cars – the black box will become mandatory

A very specific framework for using hands-free driving

Of course, French legislators have set very specific conditions to have the right to enable autonomous driving at level 3. Here they are in detail:

  • the vehicle must be on a road prohibited for pedestrians and cyclists, equipped with a central separator
  • the maximum speed must not exceed 60 km/h
  • and as mentioned above, the driver must be able to regain control at all times

In other words, the use of Level 3 autonomous driving is primarily intended for drivers trapped in highway and suburban traffic. Another important point, note it the driver will not be held responsible in the event of an accident with hands-free driving activated. In fact and in the eyes of French law, it is the builder who will be held criminally liable.

Regarding the maximum speed, it should be noted that things may change soon. Because, France plans to adopt new UN rules soon. It will allow cars with level 3 autonomous driving to drive at the maximum speed of 130 km/h instead of 60. However, they will need to be able to overtake vehicles automatically.

autonomous driving France
Credit: Mercedes EQS

Which cars are affected?

So much for saying it right away, cars compatible with Level 3 autonomous driving are not pushing at the gate in Europe, for now at least. At present, only two models can claim it: Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Mercedes-Benz EQS. And again, these luxury sedans are not yet approved to use this technology on French roads.

In other words, per 1 September 2022, no car is approved for level 3 autonomous driving in France. However, things can change quickly in the coming weeks/months. On paper, Teslas are compatible with this technology, with the fully autonomous driving function (FSD or Full Self Driving) being tested for several months in the US.

However, the American manufacturer has not yet decided to approve its vehicles to use FSD and Autopilot on French roads. This reluctance is not surprising. With the manufacturer’s criminal liability involved in the event of an accident, the latter must think twice.

Source: Les Echos

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