Draft Bill on Testing Autonomous Vehicles on Public Roads in Poland

The Polish Ministry of Energy has published a draft bill (the "Bill") on Electromobility and Alternative Fuels dated 26 April 2017, which is aimed at promoting and speeding up the development of electric infrastructure for electric cars in Poland, as well as addressing the legal issues related to autonomous driving.

The Bill proposes a number of key amendments to the Polish Road Transport Act dated 20 June 1997, i.a., regulating autonomous driving issues, and providing: 

  • a definition of 'autonomous vehicle', and
  • rules for testing autonomous vehicles on public roads.

Definition of 'autonomous vehicle'

The Bill proposes the new article 35 ab of the Polish Road Transport Act, introducing a definition of 'autonomous vehicle' into the Polish legal system.

Under the new article 35 ab, an autonomous vehicle (Polish: pojazd samosterujÄ…cy) is (1) an electric vehicle (2) which is equipped with technology and systems which control the vehicle's movement and (3) allows the vehicle to drive without any driver interaction.

Only cars which are fully electric or hybrid will be considered as autonomous vehicles. If a car uses other environmentally friendly fuels, e.g. CNG, it will not be classified as an autonomous vehicle, and therefore will not be able to be tested on public roads in Poland.

Testing autonomous vehicles on public roads in Poland

The Bill also states that public roads may be used for carrying out R&D activities related to testing autonomous vehicles when certain safety requirements are met, and a special decision was issued to the R&D activity organiser.

To obtain the approval, the organiser of autonomous vehicles testing must submit a formal written application to the appropriate road authority where the tests will take place. The application must meet all formal and legal requirements provided by the Bill, and include all required attachments, such as civil liability insurance and approval of the test vehicle.

The Bill states that is imperative that an individual with a driving license must be inside the test vehicle during all tests. Also, the roads used for testing such vehicles must be equipped with special road and warning signs for other road users (e.g. pedestrians) that the road is being used for testing autonomous vehicles.

First get your approval for your autonomous test vehicle

The approval confirmation of an autonomous test vehicle will be an obligatory attachment to the application to the local road authority for issuing the decision allowing R&D activities with an autonomous vehicle to be performed on public roads. Therefore, the importer or OEM who wishes to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in Poland should first obtain the confirmation allowing the usage of autonomous vehicles as a test vehicle on public roads in Poland.

Overall impact

The Polish Government is determined to speed up the development and implementation of available technology for individuals and businesses to use autonomous driving by expressly allowing testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. The proposed Bill does not regulate all issues related to autonomous driving in Poland; however, it is a step in the right direction which may make Poland much friendlier for testing autonomous vehicles by allowing tests to be performed on public roads and setting out the legal framework for these tests.

The proposed Bill is to be broadly consulted before being presented to the Polish Parliament.

Bird & Bird is at the forefront of advising businesses in the Automotive & Tech sector on how regulatory changes impact technology strategy and implementation.

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