Danish parliament adopts new legislation on self-driving cars

On 30 May 2017, the Danish parliament adopted an amendment of the Danish Road Traffic Act allowing testing of self-driving cars. According to the amended Act, any company, that wishes to carry out testing with self-driving cars, must apply to the Ministry of Transportation for a permit. The application must contain a description of the test vehicle, a test implementation plan, specification of the involved degree of automatization, the stretches of road to be used, as well as a number of specific details about the test.

Simply put, this is not a general permission to use self-driving cars, but only a permission to carry out tests with self-driving cars. The Ministry of Transportation can only grant permission once the Minister has consulted the police and the relevant road authorities. Furthermore, an approved expert – a so-called assessor – must evaluate the road safety-related consequences of the testing.

With this amendment comes new rules regarding liability for damages for cars included in the experimental scheme. The liability for damages rests with the holder of the permit and is a strict liability, as we know it from the Road Traffic Act.

In other words, the Danish parliament has opted for a simplified solution where the well-known strict liability, which rests with the owner or user of a motor vehicle, also applies to the person who obtains a permit to use a self-driving car.

We expect the discussions regarding product liability and self-driving cars to continue. If it turns out that a traffic accident involving a self-driving car was caused by a defect in the car, the permit holder (strict liability applies) will have recourse against the producer and/or the intermediary vendor of the defective car component, including an IT supplier.

Discussions regarding the risk of hacking attacks against self-driving cars will probably also continue.