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Germany Mulls Over Bill to Put Black Boxes in Autonomous Cars

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If late-night action movies have taught us anything, it is that when an aircraft goes down, it is almost always survived by the Black Box: a device that records crucial information for determining the cause of the crash.

Well, in the automotive industry, the problem of determining the cause of a crash is especially troubling for autonomously-driving cars, as the recent crashes and investigations into Tesla Motors’ Autopilot system shows. So, wouldn’t it be helpful to have the Black Box from each of these occurrences so we know what caused them?

Many models of cars actually are already equipped with a similar device, but the government of Germany is moving to make such devices mandatory in cars equipped with autopilot-esque systems to help determine cause (or, for insurance reasons, blame) in the event of a collision. In addition, this would help develop safer automated driving systems and put some pressure on automakers to make sure that their systems are fool-proof (a message which would be pointed especially at automakers like Chevrolet, which has been developing self-driving Bolts as taxis).

More specifically, this bill would shift the responsibility for the car’s safety more onto the automakers, as under the proposal drivers would not be required to pay attention to traffic or concentrate on steering—they would just have to be in the driver’s seat to intervene in case of emergency. In addition, the manufacturer would have to install the black boxes to record when the “autopilot” is on, when the driver is in control, and when the system asks the driver to take over.

The proposal is being sent to Germany’s other governing ministries (it was drafted by the Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt) sometime this summer, according to a transport ministry spokesman. As the largest European car market, it seems likely that, should the bill pass, it would be implemented by other governments, especially those in the EU.

News Source: Reuters