With the law on autonomous driving, Germany wants to take the lead in global competition.

From 2022 on, autonomous vehicles are to roll on German roads, without a driver and throughout Germany.

The Bundestag and Bundesrat have just passed the law.

This makes Germany the first country in the world to bring driverless cars from research into everyday life.

At least in theory.

Because so far, autonomous cars have only been on a few test tracks, for example on the digital test field Autobahn on the A 9 in Nuremberg.

However, a look at the United States reveals that Germany is not that far ahead, but rather has to catch up a few laps. In this way, entire states are turned into test tracks there. Various manufacturers have been testing in California since 2014, and even driverless since 2018. The test statistics show that American tech companies are driving away from German car manufacturers. As far as one can speak of driving away. The technology is not progressing as fast as expected.

Relatively simple driver assistance systems are an integral part of many vehicles. But there is a long way to go from cruise control or a lane departure warning system that is not always reliable to a self-driving car. How is it that autonomous vehicles still seem a long way off? One of the main reasons is the technology, which in autonomous cars has to be far more advanced in order to survive safely in road traffic.

Cameras and sensors are used to measure the distance to other road users. The system uses GPS signals to determine the vehicle's position and, thanks to modern radar sensors, it recognizes which lane the vehicle is currently in. The heart of the autonomous car is its software, which collects and evaluates all information. It is she who brakes, accelerates or steers the car in accordance with traffic regulations.

But not everyone trusts this technology, as surveys regularly show. Just under one in five Germans would use an autonomously driving car. There are remarkable differences depending on the gender or age group of the respondents. In the United States, too, not everyone is comfortable with autonomous cars. A lot of work is being done in California, the world's most important test area for autonomous vehicles. Driving here is not only on closed test tracks, but has also been driving on motorways and in cities for seven years now. Around fifty companies from all over the world are on the move there, including German automotive groups.

Most of the management group is made up of companies from the tech industry.

Waymo and, a little surprise, the automaker General Motors are in the lead.

They symbolize a race that is in full swing between Silicon Valley and the car companies.

Since 2015, they have collected more than eleven million test kilometers in California alone.

With that, you have traveled almost 280 times around the world.

Compete for the test track in California

Waymo and General Motors not only have the most test kilometers on the clock, they also have the largest fleet of vehicles. Waymo had 239 vehicles at the end of 2020, General Motors 137. For comparison: BMW was on the road with five vehicles in the same year, Nissan with four. Waymo was founded by Google in December 2016 as a subsidiary for self-driving cars. Google started developing autonomous vehicles earlier than the competition in 2009. The company received approval for the first tests on public roads three years later in the American state of Nevada. According to their own statements, the car should have been driving safer than a human driver as early as 2013. In the Waymo Via project, the company is even working on autonomously driving trucks.