Justyna Toton Feb 20, 2023 - Interior sensing

Selected regulatory aspects of autonomous driving

The future of autonomous driving is bright, as autonomous vehicles are forecasted to account for 12% of all global car registrations in 2030 [1]. With the accelerating pace of innovation and ever-growing market share of autonomous vehicles, governments worldwide take measures to regulate the industry and provide a clear legal framework for the automotive industry. The United Nations, European Union, the USA, and Japan have all issued guidelines and frameworks relevant to the future of automated transportation. We will closely look at selected regulatory documents, such as:

  • UN’s amendment to UN Regulation No. 157
  • EU’s Vehicle General Safety Regulation
  • NHTSA’s guidelines on Automated Driving Systems 2.0 (USA)
  • An amendment to Japan’s Road Traffic Act

6 levels of vehicle automation

Documents mentioned above concern different levels of vehicle automation. According to SAE [2, 7], there are six different levels of vehicle automation.

  • Level 0: Momentary Driver Assistance – you are fully responsible for your vehicle and must remain fully engaged in the driving process. Momentary driving assistance includes automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning.
  • Level 1: Driver Assistance – you are provided with continuous driver assistance and when required, the system can perform steering or acceleration/braking. Think of adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance.
  • Level 2: Additional Assistance – you are provided with continuous assistance with both acceleration/braking and steering, but you are still responsible for your vehicle. Think of a highway pilot.
  • Level 3: Conditional Automation – the system drives your vehicle for you, but you must be available to take over if required. This is the kind of automation that is currently in progress.
  • Level 4: High Automation – a human driver is no longer needed to operate a vehicle, but the system can only operate a vehicle in limited service areas. This technology is currently being developed.
  • Level 5: Full Automation – the system fully handles all driving tasks and can operate under all conditions and on all roadways.

The amendment to UN Regulation No. 157

The amendment to UN Regulation No. 157 [3], which was adopted in June 2022 and came into force in January 2023, marked a milestone for the automotive industry. It changed the maximum speed of the Automated Driving System (ADS) from the limit of 60 km/h to 130 km/h and allowed automated lane changes. What else is established by the Amendment? It stipulates that automated systems must comply with local traffic regulations in all countries that choose to apply it. To ensure road safety and driver transparency, automated vehicles must be equipped with the Data Storage System for Automated Driving (DSSAD) that records vehicle activity, specifically lane changes. Moreover, vehicle manufacturers are obliged to demonstrate their safety approach and relevant testing. Automated vehicles must meet several requirements, such as demonstrating anticipatory behavior in interaction with other road users, performing self-checks to confirm system performance, and ensuring that the effectiveness of the system is not affected by magnetic or electrical fields. The regulation also mandates test tracks and naturalistic driving study (NDS, in-the-wild) data collection. Last but not least, vehicle manufacturers must comply with cybersecurity and software update requirements.

EU’s Vehicle General Safety Regulation

Before we fully enter the era of autonomous driving, regulators work on the regulatory aspects of level 2 and 3 autonomous vehicles. The new Vehicle General Safety Regulation [4] that applies to new vehicle types from July 2022 and all new vehicles from 7 July 2024, establishes new, mandatory safety features designed to further reduce the number of road accidents. In 2024, all new road vehicles will be required to have such features as intelligent speed assistance, reversing detection with camera or sensors, attention warning in case of driver drowsiness or distraction, event data recorders, cybersecurity measures, and an emergency stop signal. New cars and vans will have to be equipped with lane-keeping systems and automated braking, while buses and trucks will use technologies for issuing warnings to prevent collisions, recognizing possible blind spots, and monitoring tire pressure systems. Additionally, between July 2024 and July 2029, all road vehicles must have an implemented advanced driver distraction warning system. New rules are well-presented in the EC’s factsheet [5].

NHTSA’s guidelines on Automated Driving Systems 2.0 (USA)

Which regulatory documents govern the automotive industry in the USA? The most important one – The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act – is legislation that requires automobile manufacturers to establish safety standards to minimize the risk of road accidents caused by the design or construction of vehicles. In general, all vehicle safety standards are issued by a federal agency – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Manufacturers have to comply with NHTSA’s requirements to sell vehicles in the USA, so the agency plays a crucial role in the future of vehicle automation in the USA. In 2016, they issued the first set of guidelines – Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety [6] – which has been updated since. The document lists all safety considerations, the best cybersecurity standards, and validation methods. In 2020, NHTSA launched its voluntary Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing, which makes it possible for companies and states to share information about the testing of automated driving systems with the public through NHTSA’s interactive tool [7]. In 2021, automated driving systems manufacturers and operators were given a Standing General Order [8] to report to the agency certain crashes involving vehicles equipped with SAE Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) in order to ensure safety standards, encourage transparency, and gain public acceptance for development of automated vehicles.

An amendment to Japan’s Road Traffic Act

The Japanese Road Traffic Act (RTA), Act No. 105 of 1960, was amended in May 2022 to introduce a permission system for level 4 automated cars [9]. Such vehicles will be completely autonomous and operated without drivers in depopulated areas, where traffic is not a problem. The regulation also gave a green light to automated delivery robots. New rules will come into force in May 2023.


With the accelerating pace of automotive innovation, 2023 will likely be a year of further legislative developments. Japan’s permission for level 4 automated cars and the EU’s new vehicle safety regulations are solid foundations for the bright automotive future. After all, it is just the beginning of an automated vehicle area – global sales of autonomous vehicles are forecasted to reach 58 million units in 2030 [10].

[1] Projected autonomous vehicle registration share worldwide between 2021 and 2030, https://www.statista.com/statistics/875080/av-market-penetration-worldwide-forecast/. Accessed 19.01.2023.
[2] SAE Levels of Driving AutomationTM Refined for Clarity and International Audience, www.sae.org/blog/sae-j3016-update. Accessed 08.02.2023.
[3] Proposal for the 01 series of amendments to UN Regulation No. 157 (Automated Lane Keeping Systems), Economic and Social Council of United Nations, https://unece.org/sites/default/files/2022-05/ECE-TRANS-WP.29-2022-59r1e.pdf, Accessed 20.01.2023.
[4] New Rules to Improve Road Safety and Enable Fully Driverless Vehicles in the EU. European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_22_4312. Accessed 20.01.2023.
[5] General safety regulation – factsheet. European Comission, https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/50774. Accessed 20.01.2023.
[6] Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety. NHTSA, https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/documents/13069a-ads2.0_090617_v9a_tag.pdf. Accessed 20.01.2023.
[7] Automated Vehicles for Safety. NHTSA, www.nhtsa.gov/technology-innovation/automated-vehicles-safety. Accessed 20.01.2023.
[8] Summary Report: Standing General Order on Crash Reporting for Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. NHTSA, https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/2022-06/ADAS-L2-SGO-Report-June-2022.pdf. Accessed 20.01.2023.
[9] Umeda, Sayuri. Japan: Road Traffic Act and Road Transport Vehicle Act Amended. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-05-16/japan-road-traffic-act-and-road-transport-vehicle-act-amended/. Accessed 20.01.2023.
[10] Projected global sales of autonomous vehicles 2019-2030. Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1230733/projected-sales-autonomous-vehicles-worldwide/. Accessed 20.01.2023.

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