Testing Autonomous Vehicles in Slovenia – A Winding Road

09 March 2020 | blog slovenia

This article was first published on thelawyer.com

EU Member States have been keen on autonomous vehicle (AV) technology for some time. An early case in point is the 2016 Declaration of Amsterdam,a high-level document on the cooperation between Member States on AV development. Being a significant transit country, Slovenia shares this interest. In December 2019, the Ministry of Infrastructure published the most recent draft amendment to the Road Traffic Rules Act (the Draft Act)2 which permits and regulates testing – but not yet the actual deployment – of AVs on Slovenian roads.

This Briefing provides an overview of the regime proposed by the Draft Act. As of the beginning of February 2020, the Draft Act has not yet been enacted into law.

The proposed Slovenian AV testing regime

Definition of AVs. The Draft Act defines AVs as motorised vehicles equipped with systems capable of independent driving in road traffic without the driver's intervention. The AVs need to be marked as such in order to be recognisable by other traffic participants.  

Where can they drive? The Draft Act allows for the designation of an area to be used for AV testing, implying that AV testing will only be allowed in such specialised areas and not in general traffic. The designated AV testing area is to be equipped with regular traffic signage and signalisation. 

Three road network locations have already been mentioned in the media as potential AV testing grounds: BTC City, a sprawling shopping and business district in Ljubljana, full of pedestrians, slow traffic and other events guaranteed to thoroughly test AV perception systems; a north-eastern highway section bordering Austria and Hungary where the three countries intend to set out an international corridor dedicated to testing AV, electric mobility and connected driving technologies3; and another highway corridor in the south-west between Postojna and Divača.4

Role of the human driver. AVs still require a human driver, who must at all times remain prepared to take control over the vehicle and may not be a "beginner driver". AV drivers are otherwise subject to the same rules as the drivers of non-autonomous motorised vehicles.

Data collection. The Draft Act prescribes mandatory monitoring of the AV driver by the AV's systems during testing at all times and recording of the obtained data. In the event of an accident or a traffic offence, authorities must be allowed access to the driver monitoring data collected within the period from 30 seconds before and until 30 seconds after the incident. Tampering with the data is explicitly prohibited.     

An earlier version of the Draft Act called for a much broader scope of mandatory data collection, capturing not (only) the driver's conduct but more generally the data on "driving and the environment" of the AV. However, following the comments by the Slovenian Information Commissioner5, who judged the provision to be disproportionately intrusive for privacy, the Draft Act narrows the reach of mandatory collection. Data collected this way must be erased by the AV manufacturer within one year, with a longer deadline applicable to the police.                  

Insurance and liability. The Draft Act requires the manufacturer of an AV or an AV system to take out mandatory liability insurance. This is in addition to the regular mandatory insurance taken out by the vehicle owner. The AV driver must be able to produce the insurance policy upon the authorities' request.

How fast can they go? The speed of AVs during test driving is limited to 100 km/h on a highway and 50 km/h on other roads (unless of course a lower limit applies to a particular road section).

Supervision and sanctions. The AV manufacturer will be obliged to notify the police of AV testing beforehand, providing information on the manufacturer, responsible person, AV test drivers, the AV itself (including licence plate numbers), equipment subject to testing and the intended period of testing.

AV drivers found to be in breach of the AV-related provisions of the Draft Act may be fined EUR 200, while a manufacturer of the AV or the AV system may be subject to a fine of EUR 2,000 (with an additional EUR 200 payable by the manufacturer's responsible person).

Declaration of Amsterdam on cooperation in the field of connected and automated driving, 14 April 2016, accessible at www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/ba7ab6e2a0e14e39baa77f5b76f59d14/2016-04-08-declaration-of-amsterdam---final1400661.pdf (4.2.2020).

2 PREDLOG (EVA 2016-2430-0015) Zakon o spremembah in dopolnitvah Zakona o pravilih cestnega prometa, accessible at: e-uprava.gov.si/.download/edemokracija/datotekaVsebina/409380 (4.2.2020).

3 Tehnologija samovozečih vozil kot prva prihaja v Šentilj in Maribor, mariborinfo.com, 26 November 2018, accessible at  https://mariborinfo.com/novica/avtomobilizem/tehnologija-samovozecih-vozil-kot-prva-prihaja-v-sentilj-in-maribor/187910 (4 February 2020).

4 A. Leban, Slovenija postaja center avtonomne vožnje, 3 April 2018, accessible at: www.zurnal24.si/avto/slovenija-btc-dars-avtonomna-av-living-lab-voznja-center-avtonomna-vozila-307622 (4 February 2020).

5 Slovenian Information Commissioner, Predlog Zakona o spremembah in dopolnitvi Zakona o pravilih cestnega prometa (EVA 2016-2430-0015) – MNENJE, 26 August 2019 accessible at: www.ip-rs.si/fileadmin/user_upload/Pdf/pripombe/MI_predlog_sprememb_ZPrCP-D_avgust2019.pdf (4 February 2020).

Jurij Lampič

Attorney at Law Attorney at Law

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