Germany aims to become ‘first country in world’ to have driverless cars on streets

In a meeting Tuesday with car bosses, Angela Merkel agreed that Germany should take on a “pioneering role” in the development of self-driving cars. Critics said the meeting did too little to address the current crisis.

Germany aims to become 'first country in world' to have driverless cars on streets
Volkswagen cars at the plant in Hannover. Photo: DPA

The meeting ended with agreement that Germany should take a “leading role in autonomous driving”.

A law, which aims to make Germany “the first country in the world to permit driverless vehicles in regular operation as well as in the entire country” is now set to be drafted. 

Although there was little in the way of concrete resolutions made at the meeting, it was significant that the government did not agree to a buyer’s premium on the purchase of new petrol-fuelled cars.

While car companies and trade unions had backed the idea of a grant for purchasing a new combustion-fuelled cars, the Green party complained that the government would be financing the further destruction of the environment.

READ ALSO: How Germany is preparing for the rise of the electric car

Environmental activists staged a protest on front of the Chancellery and demanded that Germany move immediately towards C02-free mobility.

Targets set and second 'car summit' to take place

The video conference, which was attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel, federal ministers and representatives of car manufacturers as well as trade unions and state leaders in so-called “car states”, focused primarily on digitization in transport. 

The participants also set a target of 2022 for cars with autonomous driving functions to be used in regular operation.

Lower Saxony's Minister President Stephan Weil complained after the meeting that “the very immediate challenges have not been resolved”.

Weil said that parts suppliers were experiencing a particularly torrid time of it during the crisis. But the meeting, while discussing the problem in general, had offered them no specific help.

The focus of the meeting on car technologies of the future also centred on creating a “mobility data room” – a data centre which would process the enormous amounts of information that are necessary to autonomous transportation.

In a sign that the government is highly concerned about the state of Germany's car industry a second “car summit” is to take place in November.

The aim of that meeting is to reach concrete agreements on a uniform payment system and customer-friendly use of charging points for electric cars. Associations such as the German Automobile Club (ADAC) complain that very different price models have been used at charging points to date.

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EXPLAINED: The rules for riding an e-scooter in Germany

The popularity of electric scooters in Germany has exploded in the last few years, but many people still aren't sure what the rules for driving them are. We break them down.

EXPLAINED: The rules for riding an e-scooter in Germany

Germany is currently the world’s second-largest market for e-scooter rental after the USA, which might explain why you have the feeling that you’re seeing the electric vehicles everywhere these days, at least in cities. 

According to a recent survey by ADAC,15 percent of people in Germany aged 16 and over regularly use e-scooters. Of these, 45 percent own their own scooter, while 55 percent rent the vehicles from sharing services.

Here are the rules for driving an e-scooter that you need to know.

Who can drive an e-scooter?

Anyone over the age of 14 can ride an electric scooter and you don’t need to have a driving license to use one. However, many of the traffic rules for motorists also apply to e-scooter riders, and misbehaving on a scooter could end up costing you points on your driving license or even getting you a driving ban.

READ ALSO: Driving in Germany: Eight German road signs that confuse foreigners

Can more than one person ride an e-scooter?

No. Only one person is allowed to ride a scooter and if you are caught riding in two, you will get a €10 fine.

Although it might be fun, riding side by side on two scooters is also not allowed and can be punished with a fine of between €15 and €30. Instead, you and your friends have to ride in single file.

Where can you ride an e-scooter?

E-scooters are principally allowed on bike paths and in bike lanes and you can only drive them on the road if there is no bike lane available. If you do drive on the road, you must keep as far to the right as possible and you are not allowed to ride in bus lanes.

It’s also forbidden to ride an e-scooter on the motorway – doing so will get you a €20 fine. 

Riding an e-scooter on the pavement, in pedestrian-only zones, or in one-way streets against the direction of traffic is also not allowed and can land you a fine of between €15 and €30.

However, e-scooters are allowed on one-way or no-entry roads which have a “cyclists free” sign.

A no-entry sign with a “cyclists free” sign underneath. This sign also applies to e-scooters. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jens Kalaene

Which traffic light rules apply to electric scooters?

E-scooter riders have to abide by traffic lights just like motorists, and the fine for ignoring a red light on an e-scooter is between €60 and €180.

However, if there is also a traffic light for bicycles, e-scooter riders can follow this one instead.

Is there an alcohol limit for electric scooters?

Yes, the same alcohol limits for motorists apply to electric scooter riders.

This means that anyone who drives with a blood alcohol level of between 0.5 to 1.09 is liable for a fine of €500, a 1-month driving ban and 2 points on their driving license.

It’s a criminal offence to ride an electric scooter with a blood alcohol concentration of at more than 1.1, as is causing an accident with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.3.

Under 21s must be completely alcohol free – with a blood alcohol level of 0.0 – to ride an e-scooter.

Where can e-scooters be parked?

E-scooters can be parked at the roadside, on the pavement and in pedestrian zones with designated e-scooter parking areas. However, e-scooters must be parked in such a way that they don’t obstruct or endanger pedestrians or other road users. 

Parked e-scooters in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Schmidt

Which rules are there for e-scooter owners?

If you’ve upgraded from renting to owning your own scooter, there are certain requirements you have to be aware of. 

Firstly, it’s mandatory to have liability insurance and a special sticker (similar to a license plate) stuck to the scooter to show that it is insured.

READ ALSO: German words you need to know: Haftpflichtversicherung

E-scooter owners also have to make sure that they have two independently working brakes and lights. 

Which other rules should I be aware of?

As with driving a car or cycling, you are not allowed to use your mobile phone while riding an e-scooter (which is pretty challenging anyway). If you’re caught doing so, you’ll get a €100 fine and a point on your driving license. 

It’s not mandatory to wear a helmet when riding an e-scooter, though it is recommended.