Recently the Kraków branch of the General Directorate of National Roads and Motorways (GDDKiA) held social consultations on issuance of a permit to conduct research in the form of a test drive of an autonomous car. Such consultations are required under Art. 65l of the Road Traffic Law of 20 June 1997.
According to an announcement from GDDKiA, the aim of the test drive is to study certain aspects of operating an autonomous car under actual traffic conditions (not artificial conditions). The tested car previously underwent a range of simulations, but now must be tested in road conditions.
The vehicle in question operates at level 3 automation, known as “conditional automation.” This means that its system performs all driving operations, but a human driver is located behind the steering wheel of the vehicle, ready at any time (e.g. in a dangerous situation) to take control of the car. Under the Road Traffic Law, the ability for a human to take control is a mandatory element, included in the definition of an autonomous vehicle. Consequently, under current law, R&D cannot be conducted on Polish roads using vehicles that do not provide for the possibility of human intervention.
During the consultations, any owner of real estate along the planned route could object to the travel by the autonomous car. Such an objection would have the effect that the authority issuing the permit for the journey would deny the request and the test drive would not occur.
The deadline for comments on the permit application was 19 July 2019. It does not appear from the GDDKiA website that any objections or comments on the planned test drive were raised. If so, and the other conditions for issuance of the permit were met, the test should be conducted between 9 and 13 September 2019, between 10 am and 3 pm.
This is the first undertaking of this type in Poland. In this respect, Poland undoubtedly lags behind the United States (where road operation of autonomous cars with a human driver aboard, and even unmanned, was permitted several years ago), but also behind Germany and Singapore. Nonetheless, the prospect of conducting the first such test on Polish roads provides hope for more initiatives of this type in the future.