FRANKFURT -- Germany's auto industry called on the country's lawmakers to swiftly pass a regulation that could serve as an international blueprint for autonomous taxis and buses.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet on Feb 10 put forward a bill that would allow so-called Level 4 autonomous vehicles to operate on public roads in defined areas as early as next year.
"We want autonomous cars and buses that take passengers to their destinations on demand -- and park themselves in the parking garage afterwards," German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer told the dpa news agency.
The VDA, which represents the interests of German automakers and suppliers, says the legislation, if passed, would help the industry gain an edge internationally in the race to develop highly automated vehicles.
While automakers such as Volkswagen and Daimler do not have any such vehicles ready to enter series production, they hope a favorable regulatory environment will help them to design and roll out self-driving shared vehicles, known as robotaxis.
"The knowledge and experience that can be gained in Germany in the course of this process offers the chance to serve as the foundation for a European legal framework and an international regulation," the VDA said in a statement.
Currently none of the major German automakers have plans to launch shared autonomous vehicles any time soon. Under Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius, Mercedes-Benz has backed away from robotaxis, arguing it does not see a strong enough business case, preferring to invest together with Nvidia in greater levels of autonomy for conventional passenger cars for private owners.
In November, VW appointed one of its top engineers, Christian Senger, as the head of development for autonomous driving and mobility-as-a-service. He is in charge of developing a model for use in such fleets, but the self-driving software system will come from associate Argo AI.