Cars could be driving themselves down the world’s streets far sooner than expected, thanks to a change in a global treaty backed by European countries.
A little-noticed amendment to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic agreed last month would let drivers take their hands off the wheel of self-driving cars. It was pushed by Germany, Italy and France, whose high-end carmakers believe they are ready to zoom past American tech pioneers and bring the first “autonomous vehicles” to market.
“Today I am only allowed to take my hands off the wheel to a limited extent. Thankfully the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic has been changed,” said Thomas Weber, head of Group research at Daimler and head of development at Mercedes-Benz.
For years, so-called “autonomous vehicles” have been a futuristic dream pioneered by silicon valley companies like Google. But as the technology becomes more affordable, Europe’s luxury automakers say they are well placed to take advantage of it because of their deeper experience in engineering, manufacturing, marketing and sales. There is no point in waiting while California upstarts catch up.
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