Spain takes a first step to regulate Autonomous Vehicles
The Spanish Official Journal (BOE) publishes today Law 18/2021 of 20 December, which amends the Law on Traffic, Circulation of Motor Vehicles and Road Safety.
The headlines of this new Law focused on the fact that it will no longer be allowed to exceed the speed limit by 20 km/h during overtaking or, also, on the increase in the loss of points for certain offences (for example, driving while holding a mobile phone will deduct six points instead of four as at present).
However, hidden in the text, there are a few articles that represent a real revolution for mobility in Spain.
Spain regulates, for the first time, the circulation of autonomous vehicles (AVs).
Admittedly, the regulation is scarce. But it is a very important first step. Europe, in general, is lagging far behind the United States in both the technical development and regulation of autonomous vehicles. This new law allows Spain to close the gap somewhat.
So what exactly does the new law say about AVs (“automated vehicles” in the terms of the law)? Here is a summary of its main novelties:
- The Spanish State will be competent to regulate automated vehicles (art. 4). The Ministry of the Interior will be competent to regulate them in terms of traffic and road safety, while the Ministry of Industry will be competent to homologate the vehicles.
- At the time of registration of the automated vehicle, its automated driving capabilities and its operational design domain must be communicated to the Vehicle Register of the Central Traffic Headquarters (Art. 11a). Any updates of the system must also be communicated.
- The characteristics of both the degree of automation and the operational environment of use of the VA shall be stated on its registration certificate, in accordance with the regulations (Art. 66).
- The Government is empowered to approve a Bylaw to regulate the procedure for certifying that an automated vehicle complies with the road traffic regulations, as well as the definition of the automation capacities and the operational environments of use that will be stated both in the Vehicle Register and in the registration certificate (Second Additional Provision).
As can be seen, the regulation of automated vehicles is largely left to a later regulatory development. The new Law is, so to speak, an announcement of what is to come. In any case, the key point is that the Spanish state has already declared itself competent to regulate VAs in Spain and has begun to lay the foundations for regulating their registration, circulation permits and operational environments of use.