Germany announces ‘Digital Highway’ for self-driving cars

Germany is looking to make sure that its association with the automobile industry is future-proof after announcing support for self-driving vehicles.

The German government has confirmed that a specialised track is being constructed on the A9 Autobahn highway in Bavaria to allow testing of driverless cars.

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The “Digital Highway” will become the first public track for testing automated vehicles and will include a number of high-tech features of its own to allow the cars to communicate with the track itself, as well as surrounding vehicles.

In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, transport minister Alexander Dobrindt confirmed the new highway will look to continue Germany’s rich history in the automotive sphere.

"The German car industry will be a world leader in digital cars" he said. "First there will be vehicles with driver assistance systems and then it can also be used with fully automated vehicles."

Until recently, the opening of the “Digital Highway” in Germany was forbidden by law, after the country signed the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. Understandably, the document stated that every driver must be able to control his vehicle, but the development of self-driving cars has made this piece of legislation problematic. However, last year it was revised to allow drivers to remove their hands from the wheel of automated cars.

Some industry analysts have been dismissive of self-driving cars despite recent technological innovations from the likes of Google and Tesla. However, Dobrindt believes that traditional car manufacturers can still dominate the future of automobiles without interference from technology giants.

"The German manufacturers will not rely on Google," he said.

Read more: Self-driving cars unlikely to hit roads before 2025

Despite Dorbrindt’s bullish response, the software required to create a fully operational automated vehicle is extremely complicated, meaning automobile firms will have to extend far beyond their usual remit if they are to be successful.