On May 20, 2022, the German Federal Council (Bundesrat ) approved under the condition of amendments the ordinance to regulate the operation of motor vehicles with automated and autonomous driving functions and to amend road traffic regulations, which completes the national legal framework for autonomous driving. 
Germany is getting closer and closer to another milestone with regard to the mobility of the future, namely that autonomous motor vehicles (Level 4) will be able to drive in regular operation in defined operating areas on public roads throughout Germany.
Level 4 means that the motor vehicle with autonomous driving function drives in defined areas automatically and can also drive without passengers. Drivers can occupy themselves with other things and only have to be capable of driving if necessary.
Background: Legal framework for autonomous driving in Germany
With the Amendment Act of the Road Traffic Act and the Compulsory Insurance Act – the Autonomous Driving Act (Bundesgesetzblatt – BGBL I No. 49 of July 27, 2021) – the new legal framework for the use of autonomous, i.e. driverless, motor vehicles came into force on July 28, 2021. This created the basic conditions for motor vehicles with autonomous driving functions to be able to drive in regular operation on public roads – on specified operating areas. The Act contains enabling legislation for the issuance of ordinances. The responsible federal minister for digital affairs and transport, Dr. Volker Wissing issued a new legal ordinance to this Act. At the cabinet meeting on February 23, 2022, this new legal ordinance was adopted by the federal government. This ordinance now, which is intended to supplement and concretize the regulations of the Act, has been approved by the Federal Council.
Need for the new legal ordinance
The legal ordinance serves to implement the regulations of the Act in detail; in doing so, the legal ordinance regulates procedural rules and technical requirements for autonomous driving and thus enables the actual approval of motor vehicles with autonomous driving functions. Without the specifications of the legal ordinance, the Act could not yet be implemented into practice.
Key elements of the new legal ordinance
The core of the new legal ordinance are technical regulations and the regulation of the procedure for the admission of motor vehicles with autonomous driving functions to road traffic. The main provisions are:
- the examination and procedure for granting an operating permit for motor vehicles with autonomous driving functions;
- the conditions and the detailed procedure for the approval of the defined operating area for the circulation of a concrete motor vehicle with autonomous driving function on public roads;
- supplementary regulations on the registration of the motor vehicle & detailed regulations on the obligations of the parties involved;
- New trial regulations & misdemeanor offenses;
- In the Annex detailed the technical requirements for the construction, condition, equipment for motor vehicles with autonomous driving functions.
Need for amendments of the new legal ordinance
The German Federal Council has approved the ordinance under the condition of amendments. In particular, the German Federal Council identified a need for amendments in the following matters:
1. Extended departure check (erweiterte Abfahrtskontrolle) once a day
The extended departure check (i.e. a test drive and a check of numerous safety-relevant systems) is sufficient if this is carried out once a day before the start of operation and no longer has to be carried out each time the vehicle starts driving, as was previously the case.
2. Specification on the regulations of operating areas
The municipal authorities responsible for issuing permits generally do not have the expertise to adequately assess the suitability of an operating area for a specific vehicle with autonomous driving functions. The same applies to the proof of the required radio network coverage (Funk-Netzabdeckung) in the operating area. It is unreasonable to expect these authorities to permanently monitor operating areas that have already been approved and to always have to verify changes in infrastructure or to match against the permit.
3. Comparability in recognizing traffic signs
The motor vehicle with autonomous driving function must meet at least the same requirements for traffic sign recognition that are placed on vehicle operators. It must be assumed that the motor vehicle with autonomous driving function has to recognize all existing traffic signs and traffic facilities in the operating area and take them into account in the speed and moving traffic process. The motor vehicle with autonomous driving function should also be able to cope with such changes that occur after the operating area has been approved.
4. Clarification of the relation between ordinance and Road Traffic Act (StVO)
The current regulations of the German Road Traffic Act (Straßenverkehrsordnung – StVO) were based on the presence of a vehicle operator. In this context, the duties of conduct according to the Road Traffic Act has to be mentioned, for example how will the requirements for securing the accident site in the event of accidents with autonomous vehicles be handled.
5. Dangers due to Technical Supervisor under the influence of alcohol
The ordinance shall specify on the matter how traffic dangers can be prevented which are caused by so-called Technical Supervisors (Technische Aufsicht) who are under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. The Technical Supervisor of a motor vehicle with autonomous driving functions is an individual who can deactivate this motor vehicle during operation and release driving maneuvers for this motor vehicle. The legal construct of the Technical Supervisor was newly introduced in addition to the existing legal subjects of owner, driver and manufacturer.
The next legal steps
The ordinance will now be resubmitted to the Federal Cabinet. The ordinance can only enter into force if the Federal Council’s amendments are implemented. If the amendments are implemented in full by the Federal Cabinet, the ordinance is expected to be entered into force soon.
 German Federal Council (Bundesrat) is the counterpart to the German parliament, i.e. the legislative body that represents the sixteen federal states in Germany)
 More information (only available in German): https://www.bmvi.de/SharedDocs/DE/Pressemitteilungen/2022/022-bundesrat-verabschiedet-verordnung-zum-autonomen-fahren.html