Regulatory framework for testing

From a technical perspective, highly automated are already a reality, even if they are not yet commercially available. Due to their complexity, systems in automated vehicles call for the highest safety requirements and the performance of extensive test procedures. Automated systems can currently only be tested to a very limited extent in a strictly controlled environment.

Testing on public roads - under real conditions - and also in selected and re-usable test environments is, as well as the virtual environment, an important prerequisite for the continued development of automated driving.

In order to be able to test automated or networked vehicles or their technologies whilst complying with the strictest safety regulations, the BMK is following two approaches:

  • Testing on public roads with a corresponding certificate, as a possibility for testing advanced, automated vehicles/functions and
  • Testing in special test environments, in order to carry out extensive test running for research development and validation projects and so to make it possible for all participants to learn together.

The legalisation of testing on public roads thus allows the targeted testing of specific usage cases (after authorisation), while test environments are equipped for multiple use.
For the BMK, a test environment is defined by a combination of simulation, test bench, the test environment on non-public routes and real running in public traffic.

The first Austrian test environment - at the same time one of the most diverse in Europe - is presently being created in Styria. Research institutes and industrial companies from the Styrian automotive cluster are grouping together their expertise here under the title "ALP.Lab". The many possibilities here are unique: besides tests on private routes, test runs on motorways are also possible. In addition, modern simulators and testing facilities are available.

"DigiTrans" is another test environment being created in Upper Austria. This has the aim of setting up an interdisciplinary test region for automated and networked driving in the North Central region of Austria (Linz – Wels – Steyr). In the process, the project addresses requirements from industry and infrastructure managers, including digitalisation and logistics aspects. DigiTrans focusses on requirements and usage cases of commercial and special vehicles, especially in the area of logistics hubs and on the common use of the infrastructure of test environments for fully automated driving.

Besides test environments, R&D pilot projects on e.g. automated minibuses ( Salzburg – "Digibus® Austria") should allow an evaluation of the impact of automated vehicles and enable their safe running in traffic in local public passenger transport as feeder services in a regional, intermodal mobility system. In addition, the linking of more efficient and automated freight traffic from the motorways into the towns will be addressed by the lead projekt "Connecting Austria".

International comparison

As uniform regulations and standards for the performance of tests of automated vehicles on public roads have at present not been implemented either within the European Union or at UN level, some countries have already enacted corresponding laws or regulations at the domestic level. These laws and regulations have further substantiated the existing regulatory framework at national level and so made the performance of tests with automated vehicles easier or made them possible at all. Overlaps can often be observed in the individual structure of the national regulatory framework of different countries.