Green light for Experimental Law for testing self-driving vehicles on public roads

With effect from 1 July 2019, public road tests involving self-driving vehicles are allowed under strict conditions. These experiments can involve vehicles whose drivers are located outside the vehicle, such as a remotely operated self-driving minibus. Prior to approval from the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, applications for such tests are assessed by the Netherlands Vehicle Authority RDW, the police, road authorities, and the Dutch Institute for Road Safety Research SWOV. They verify whether obviation of the traffic safety risks is sufficiently warranted.

On 1 July, the new “Experimental Law on Selfdriving vehicles” enabling these types of experiments is enacted. Currently, cars with automated functions supporting the driver such as adaptive cruise control, automatic parking, and lane-keeping systems are already driving the roads. However, these are not self-driving vehicles as the ones that are currently being developed by car manufacturers.
Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure and Water Management: ‘The car of the future is being designed today. Self-driving transport opens up opportunities for enhanced traffic safety and reducing the number of accident-related tailbacks. It is important that we prepare our roads and make our legislation futureproof to accommodate such transport, rather than waiting for these cars to be marketed. That is why we are now offering manufacturers the opportunity to experiment with these types of vehicles on public roads, whereby the safety of all the road users is always paramount.’
 
The Netherlands has allowed public road testing of self-driving cars since 2015, but up until now, a driver always had to be present in the vehicle. This new Experimental Law also enables remote-driver tests. In addition to minibuses, the tests can also involve, e.g., moving motorway roadblocks with remote drivers.

The tests are subject to several conditions and restrictions. For example, the traffic safety risks must demonstrably be minimised, and the remote driver must always hold a valid driver’s licence. Furthermore, the tests to be conducted on a specific road or road section will be confined to a limited timeframe. Feedback regarding the outcomes of the experiment must be provided to the Netherlands Vehicle Authority RDW.
 
The Netherlands is at the vanguard of the countries that are preparing for self-driving transport. The outcomes of the experiments will be used to review whether current legislation will be adequate at both the national and international levels, or whether further amendments will be required to accommodate the cars and the transport of the future.