Regulatory innovation: adapting to autonomous vehicles

The increased investment in R&D of (semi-)autonomous vehicles is showing itself in more and more products that need real-life tests, or even commercial deployment in passenger transport, personal transport and logistics. Regulatory innovation is one of the key enablers.

The Netherlands with its high utilization of roads, and ubiquitous pedestrians and cyclists is seen as one of the most challenging environments for (semi-)autonomous vehicles. Combined with a forward looking and adaptive regulatory framework this creates an ideal testing and deployment area. Since the ‘90’s tests of connected, cooperative, semi- and fully-automated vehicles in controlled or real-life conditions has been supported, such as the EU Truck Platooning Challenge.

During the EU-presidency of the Netherlands, the Declaration of Amsterdam was created. The Declaration of Amsterdam is the agreement of the EU member states, the European Commission and the private sector on joint goals and joint actions, regarding connected and autonomous driving on European roads.

The Dutch government and the Smart Mobility sector have translated this agreement to a joint effort to enable large-scale testing of autonomous, connected and semi-automated vehicles in the Netherlands, including on public highways, wherever possible and responsible. One of the key enablers is regulatory innovation: developing and adapting vehicle approval rules and processes. The challenge for governments and regulators is to find the balance between allowing innovation and limiting the risks of new technology.

Each new vehicle needs to get approval from one of the national regulators before it receives permission to enter the EU-market. New technologies like autonomous or semi-automated driving go beyond the scope of the standard regulatory framework for vehicles. The so-called exemption procedure allows a regulator like the Dutch RDW (Netherlands Vehicle Authority) to push the envelope, and develop rules and tests to allow for controlled innovation. The RDW has been very active in working with the industry to use the exemption procedure to everybody’s benefit, resulting in many real-life tests and deployments.

The experience gained by allowing exemptions is translated into updated regulations that are applicable for all of Europe. The knowledge collected in the process is made available online, see The Knowledge Agenda on Automatic Driving provides an online overview of regulation- related knowledge in the field of automatic driving.



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