The Netherlands seeks to create a climate that encourages the further development of self-driving vehicles. This will include large-scale testing of self-driving vehicles on the public road. Together with the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW), minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, has prepared regulations that make this legally feasible. The new legislation for automated driving on the public roads came into force on 1 July 2015.
The Netherlands as testbed
The new legislation, the high- and diffused road network and the clustering of technological expertise in the Netherlands make the country an ideal testbed for self-driving vehicles. The same applies to the testing of new forms of technology whereby cars communicate with each other and with the infrastructure. The Netherlands is home to excellent facilities like the RDW test centre, the automotive cluster in Helmond, the DITCM (Dutch Integrated Test site for Cooperative Mobility) and the ITS corridor currently under development with Germany and Austria. This corridor is being readied for testing of cooperative intelligent systems and automated driving. The Netherlands can point to many examples of governmentals, the business community and knowledge institutes jointly yielding breakthroughs. The Dutch Automated Vehicle Initiative (DAVI) demonstration in 2013 was a good example.
The Dutch principle is Learning by doing. This means that the transport and automotive sectors can actually start practical testing here and now. Applications for cars as well as trucks are more than welcome. For applications see the RDW website. The RDW is empowered to allow vehicles with innovative automated elements on public roads. First, test applicants need to show that the test will be carried out safely. To this end they must submit an application, to be evaluated by the RDW.
How the Dutch exemption process works
The Netherlands Vehicle Authority evaluates test applications in three stages:
- written evaluation, roughly comprising an overview of changes to the vehicle, and the impact these have on safety, and counter measures;
- functionality testing (at a closed facility), of aspects the applicant seeks to test on public roads: the ‘happy flow test’;
- a stress test at a closed facility. This tests system robustness, both in technical and functional terms.
If this phase is completed successfully, consideration will be given – in consultation with the road manager(s) – as to suitable locations to be opened up and under what circumstances. This may involve recommendations from knowledge institutes like the Road Safety Research Institute (SWOV) or cyber security experts. The exemption lists all relevant circumstances together with the licensed drivers, the duration of the exemption and the vehicles.