UN adopts 1st int’l regulation for “level 3” automation in heavy vehicles

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) said on Friday that its member states had adopted the world’s first binding international regulation for the introduction of so-called “level 3” vehicle automation in heavy vehicles on the roads.

According to the UNECE, “level 3” vehicle automation means that the driver does not drive when the automated driving systems are switched on even if the driver is seated in the driver’s seat, but when the system requests it the driver can jump in any time. Such systems can drive the vehicle under limited conditions and will not operate unless all required conditions are met.

The regulation has been adopted by the UNECE World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) as an amendment to a United Nations (UN) Regulation on Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) that lays down the technical requirements for their use in heavy vehicles, including trucks, buses and coaches. WP.29 is a unique worldwide regulatory forum within the institutional framework of the UNECE Inland Transport Committee.

In its current form, the regulation allows the use of ALKS for speeds below 60 kilometers per hour on motorways — a use case initially applicable to assist in traffic jams or other slow-moving traffic situations. Once activated, ALKS will be in primary control of the vehicle, but the driver must be in a position to respond to a takeover request from the system.

The amendment, which is expected to enter into force in June 2022, requires a driver availability recognition system for heavy vehicles, which control both the driver’s presence (on the driver’s seat, with seat belt fastened) and the driver’s availability to take back control of the vehicle.

It sets requirements for the use of a “black box” in the form of a Data Storage System for Automated Driving (DSSAD) and the retrievability of data in the event of a crash. The regulation also sets strict requirements for cybersecurity and software updates in compliance with separate UN regulations already in force.

The amendment also introduces specific provisions for heavy vehicles, including the need for sensors covering the full combined length of the vehicle, and requirements taking into consideration the dynamics of heavy vehicles, such as their reduced braking capability compared to cars and vans.

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