Automated cars will take over

The stages of autonomous driving

At level 4, a car is able to cope with different traffic situations and cover longer distances without human intervention. “The system boundaries are therefore more extended than on level 3,” explains Katrin Leicht. The car could, for example, drive onto the autobahn and manage the entire autobahn trip on its own. The vehicle not only has the necessary sensor technology to orientate itself comprehensively on different roads and in different traffic situations; it also communicates with the infrastructure and other vehicles.

The systems should be able to recognize their limits so reliably and in good time that they either prompt the driver to take over in good time or bring the vehicle into a "safe state" - for example, initiate an emergency stop at the roadside. "However, since this will not be possible on all roads or in all traffic situations, the drivers are still the fallback level and must be able to take over the wheel in case of doubt," adds Leicht. That is why they have to remain roadworthy and are not allowed to sit behind the wheel after two glasses of red wine.

So far, however, there is no legal framework for fully automated vehicles. The driver's rights and obligations in this operating mode are therefore not binding. It has therefore not yet been clarified whether drivers can only sit back or even take a nap during the fully automated journey when they know that they will be on the highway for the next four hours. Another challenge: the more often and for longer the vehicle drives independently, the less routine the driver becomes. At the same time, they must be able to switch from relaxation to concentration at short notice in order to steer the vehicle through dangerous situations. "That is why it can make sense to subject drivers to special training courses at level 4, such as those carried out by pilots," recommends Katrin Leicht.