Cars that are highly “self-driving” are not allowed to drive on Belgian roads. This is what Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) said on Tuesday in ‘Het Nieuwsblad’. His Flemish colleague Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) says she regrets Gilkinet’s statements and says she opts for “technological progress and sustainable growth”.
In Germany you are allowed to drive autonomously on the motorway with some Mercedes “level 3” models. This means that the car takes over the steering wheel, allowing the driver to do other things. You must be able to take control again at any time. Moreover, it is only possible during daylight, in a traffic jam and the maximum speed is 60 kilometers per hour.
“People can also rest on the train”
Mercedes hoped to also offer the system in Belgium, but legal permission has not been granted. “I am not in favor,” says Minister Gilkinet. “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.”
Vias and Touring warn: technology cannot be stopped
Stef Willems of road safety institute Vias warns that the technology cannot be stopped, including for passenger cars. It would therefore be a good idea to organize pilot projects to evaluate the technology.
Mobility organization Touring is absolutely not happy with the news, let us know in a comment. Touring is “disappointed in the minister’s unwillingness” to pave the way for self-driving vehicles and to enjoy their benefits in the long term.
Touring does not share Gilkinet’s opinion at all. “It is certain that automated vehicles can be a major step forward in terms of road safety, but that they can also have resolutely positive effects in terms of traffic flow and therefore environmental impact,” it said. Touring believes that we should not nip these opportunities in the bud and that pilot projects involving autonomous vehicles must be urgently authorized and set up.
Inhibiting technological improvement that is in full swing and coming anyway, never has a sustainable positive effect. Moreover, this weakens our position compared to neighboring countries that are ambitiously committed to technological innovation, it said. Touring is also shocked by the minister’s argument. “It actually advocates less clean, less smooth, less safe, less comfortable car traffic, just so as not to widen the gap with the train. That is a destructive strategy.”
It is incomprehensible that in policy terms people still think in terms of ‘either-or’ and not ‘and-and’.
“Everyone should realize that we need the best and most advanced technology for all modes of transport to roll out a high-performance, multimodal mobility system that successfully meets the challenges. It is incomprehensible that in policy terms people still think in terms of ‘either-or’ and not ‘and-and’,” the organization concludes.
At the end of September, the Autonomous Transport Taskforce was launched at Flemish level. This must “direct the rise of autonomous transport in Flanders and provide maximum support for new pilot projects”. As far as Peeters is concerned, autonomous mobility is “a reality that we cannot avoid”. Flanders, within its powers, will continue to “take on a participatory role” in order to guide the market, it is said.
WATCH ALSO. What about self-driving cars?
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