Cars that are highly “self-driving” are not allowed to drive on Belgian roads. “I see a whole series of problems and risks,” says Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet.
It is already allowed in Germany: on the motorway you can drive autonomously with some more expensive Mercedes “level 3” models. This means that the car takes over the wheel. As a driver you can do other things: watch a movie or play games on the dashboard. You must be able to take back the wheel at any time. And there are still preconditions: it is only possible in daylight, in a traffic jam and the maximum speed is 60 kilometers per hour.
Mercedes hoped to also offer the system in Belgium, but legal permission has not been granted. “I am not in favor,” says Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo). “It is an intermediate form of autonomous driving: people who are gaming in their car are not alert enough to be able to intervene quickly if necessary.” Gilkinet points out other “classic disadvantages”. “Self-driving cars also get stuck in traffic jams and cause pollution. For long journeys, it is better to encourage people to take the train than to sit in a self-driving car. They can also rest on the train.”
Self-driving vehicles are especially interesting for the logistics sector, for example in industry, says Gilkinet. “We have already conducted several studies on this and there is also a pilot project underway.”
However, the technology to increasingly move towards “self-driving” cars, including in passenger cars, cannot be stopped, says Stef Willems of road safety institute Vias. “It is simply an evolution that more and more driving tasks will become automated. That also has many advantages: the computer is never distracted and has never been drinking before driving.”
According to Willems, it would be good if there were pilot projects to evaluate the technology. “These systems also continuously learn while driving. So you have to be willing to test them to ultimately implement them safely.”