As per the new guidelines released this week, entirely autonomous cars will not be tested on public roads.

Published yesterday by Japan’s National Police Agency, the guidelines for conducting public road tests of self-driving cars exclude fully automated vehicles. NPA mentions all tests should be done with vehicles that have a person behind the steering wheel to take control in case the on-board hardware malfunctions or the software gives errors.

In addition, vehicles tested on public roads must come equipped with a black box like airplanes have to record all the data. In case of an accident, the black box will be analyzed to find out what went wrong and take the necessary measures so that it will not happen again. Once these corrective measures will be made, testing on public roads will resume.

The NPA has elaborated a four-tier classification system for semi- and fully-autonomous vehicles, as follows:

Level 1 - some of the car’s functions are automated;

Level 2 - multiple car functions are automated, including acceleration, steering, and control;

Level 3 - limited self-driving automation. The driver can still take control when necessary, but in most of the time the car drives itself;

Level 4 - fully autonomous car that can do all the work and does not require human input.

The NPA will establish this summer a panel of experts to analyze the necessary legislative modifications related to self-driving car tests on public roads. One of the hottest topics that will be up for debate refers to who would be legally responsible in case of a crash. In addition, anti-hacking measures will also be required while the driver’s license system will probably have to be adapted for autonomous vehicles.


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