November 7, 2023
The fact that Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet does not want to allow self-driving cars in Belgium is causing commotion. ‘Technology cannot be stopped’, is what the sector says.
Recently, you can drive autonomously at level three on the highway in Germany with some of the more expensive Mercedes models. This means that you no longer have to keep your eyes on the road, but can do other things, such as reading the newspaper. A nap is not possible, because you have to be able to take over the wheel at any time. There are still preconditions: the function can only be activated in daylight, in a traffic jam and if the maximum speed is not more than 60 kilometers per hour.
Mercedes hopes to roll out its Drive Pilot also in Belgium, but Federal Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) is holding back. “I am not in favor of it,” he said in the Mediahuis newspapers on Tuesday. ‘People who are gaming in their car are not alert enough to be able to intervene quickly.’ Gilkinet sees other disadvantages. “Self-driving cars also get stuck in traffic jams and cause pollution,” he said. ‘For long journeys, it is better to encourage people to take the train than to sit in a self-driving car. They can rest on the train.’
The Ecolo minister’s statements rubbed several people the wrong way. ‘The evolution towards self-driving cars can no longer be stopped,’ said Steven Latré, head of artificial intelligence at the Imec research center in ‘The Morning’ on Radio 1. ‘Testing with level three self-driving cars is crucial to perfect the technology. ‘
Latré advocates a number of pilot projects. “There are already cases like this in other countries, but every situation is different,” he said. ‘Germany has different road signs and different traffic situations. It is important to test the technology in the region where it will ultimately be rolled out.’
The mobility organization Touring and the road safety center Vias are also advocating for pilot projects. Touring warns that the Belgian position towards neighboring countries risks weakening if our country does not participate in technological innovation. “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.