Dieter Zetsche, 1968 Vienna Convention and autonomous cars

Almost all of the European member countries (with the exception of Spain and the United Kingdom) signed and ratified the Convention on Road Traffic, also known as the 1968 Vienna Convention. The verbiage in the Convention uses words such as carriageway, and has the most basic definition of what constitutes a car. Article 8 Section one is specific, “1. Every moving vehicle or combination of vehicles shall have a driver,” as is Section 5, “5. Every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle or to guide his animals.” This was further solidified in Article 13 Section 1, “Every driver of a vehicle shall in all circumstances have his vehicle under control so as to be able to exercise due and proper care and to be at all times in a position to perform all manoeuvres required of him.”

The European countries have to change these laws in order to have autonomous vehicles on European roads. The laws have been written but there is a waiting period until September, 2015. On the eve of the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) I talked to Dieter Zetsche, chief executive officer of Daimler AG, at the unveil of the Mercedes-Benz F 015 an autonomous concept vehicle about the 1968 Vienna Convention and whether Mercedes will be able to start testing on European roads.

Other car companies have come up with radical visions of autonomous vehicles, including ZOOX, an Australian company that designed an autonomous vehicle with airbags on the outside of the vehicle. Does Daimler have visions of airbags on the outside of the car?

How long does Zetsche think it will be before an autonomous vehicle of this vision will be “recognized”?

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.