The latest in a long line of breezy promotional videos from Google has landed. This time, it was the company’s self-driving vehicle project that took centre stage. Although the car’s dinky, bubble-like design was mocked by some, its announcement has also been widely understood to signal the fact that autonomous vehicles are now entering the next level of testing and development.
Google’s cars will, for now, be limited to trials in the Palo Alto firm’s home state of California. So what about driverless transportation in Europe? Is the EU ready to embrace this technology, or is it about to be left in the wake of another American innovation?
At first glance the situation seems a little murky. Both BMW and Daimler AG, which owns Mercedes-Benz, have been working on autonomous vehicle concepts for years, such as BMW’s self-driving 5 Series.
However, spokespersons for both companies have admitted to Wired.co.uk that marketable products in this category are a long way off. The reason? Simply put, it’s because the legal framework that would enable the sale of such vehicles is more or less absent.
“The legislation is just not in place for us to be able to put these vehicles on the market,” explains a BMW spokesperson.
Essentially, EU law has not yet worked out applicable assumptions and rules that would apply to the kind of intermittently autonomous vehicles currently available, never mind the sort of design just shown off by Google—which lacks a steering wheel.