Innovation in Madrid’s new Sustainable Mobility Ordinance: progress and doubts
The Madrid City Council has just published its Preliminary Draft of the New Sustainable Mobility Ordinance (SMO). This text updates in depth the Ordinance approved in 2018 (it changes 109 of its 250 articles). It will be subject to a public hearing until 26 June and, according to the City Council, it could be finally approved by the end of July.
The changes affect issues as relevant as the progressive ban of the most polluting vehicles in certain areas of Madrid, the extension of the Regulated Parking Service (SER) to 20 new neighbourhoods and the creation of its new dynamic rates, the regulation of bicycles and scooters, the implementation of night buses on demand and the regulation of drones. In this post, however, I am going to focus on a very specific aspect: the new regulation of innovation.
Indeed, the new draft ordinance introduces a new article – 233 – dedicated to innovation and the procedure for the City Council to approve innovative mobility projects.
Broadly speaking, this article 233 provides for two main types of innovative projects.
The first type of innovative projects is related to the extraordinary research tests carried out by car manufacturers and official laboratories foreseen in article 47 of the state General Vehicle Regulation (RGV). This article foresees that the Directorate General of Traffic (DGT) may grant authorizations to carry out such tests on motorways (not on urban roads) which allow the speed limits to be exceeded. Articles 233.2 and 233.3 of the OMS provide the procedures for authorising tests in the cases covered and not covered by this Article 47 RGV.
The second type of innovative projects envisaged by the new article 233 of the SMO are those related to autonomous vehicles. Pilot tests of both manned and unmanned autonomous vehicles on the road and on the pavement in Madrid are considered. In all cases, a municipal authorization will be required.
How are municipal authorizations to carry out pilot tests in these two cases obtained?
Here, the City Council will probably have to modify the published text of the new SMO because there are issues that remain unclear.
In particular, the confusion stems from the fact that conditions are included for authorizations for the first type of innovative projects (those related to art. 47 of the RGV) that are not specified as to whether they apply equally to the second type (autonomous vehicles).
Indeed, Article 233.3 on vehicle testing on urban roads in Madrid, which is not subject to authorization by the DGT in accordance with Article 47 of the RGV, provides for a series of requirements. Applications for authorization, for example, must be addressed to the area of the City Council responsible for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (not Mobility) and must include a justification of their public interest, as well as a safety study and a safety impact study.
Do these same requirements apply to projects with autonomous vehicles in art 233.4? Logic would seem to dictate so, but the wording of the regulation does not make this clear.
Moreover, other paragraphs of the article explicitly state that they apply to both types of projects. This is the case of art 233.5, which provides that authorizations regarding road safety will be granted by the Municipal Police, and also art 233.6, which requires that the vehicles tested have a civil liability insurance with a cover of at least one million euros and that a general risk analysis and a specific risk analysis regarding mobility be presented. It is therefore likely that the wording of the article will have to be changed before its final adoption.
It is also worth noting that the City Council will have a very broad power to authorize or refuse the innovation tests. It will be able to cite all kinds of reasons – safety, road safety, public health, universal accessibility, environmental sustainability, heritage protection and other reasons of general interest… – to deny an authorization.
In short, the City Council foresees with its new article 233 dedicated to SMO innovation an authorization procedure for pilot testing of autonomous vehicles and other types of mobility. The process will require a substantial amount of reports and will have to go through several areas of the City Council, so it is not expected to be fast at all. In addition, the wording of Article 233 is likely to be revised to clarify the requirements specifically for autonomous vehicles.
Finally, a modification of the fourth additional provision of the SMO that foresees the future approval of a new ordinance to regulate an innovative mobility sandbox should be highlighted. This project was announced by the Madrid City Council in April and has already been submitted for public consultation.