Germany's A9 autobahn to become test track for self-driving cars

A section of the A9 autobahn is to be set up for testing autonomous vehicles like (we hope) Mercedes-Benz' spectacular F 015 concept

Germany's Minister of Transport has announced a project that will see a section of the A9 autobahn that connects Berlin and Munich set it up for autonomous vehicle testing.

Hanging digital bells and whistles on the A9 will include infrastructure provisions for vehicle-to-vehicle communication, as well as liberating a chunk of the 700 MHz radio spectrum so the test cars can talk back and forth. The project is expected to get underway later this year.

Germany's Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the project will make the German car industry a leader in the field and enable them to build an independent data platform.

"The German manufacturers will not rely on Google," said Dobrindt. "We must guard against the monopolization of the data. We must create for ourselves a digital sovereignty, regardless of the Americas and Asia."

The issue is not a new one. "We seek connection to Google’s data systems but we still want to be the masters of our own cars," Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said in October last year. "Potential conflict arises around making data available."

Data platforms aside, it's clear that manufacturers like Mercedes and Volkswagen are looking into having self-driving capability be another option for future buyers. You can check the boxes for Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, satellite radio, and someday, also check the box for autonomous driving.

While similar projects are underway in the US, Europe, China, and Japan, the German trials are the first time a country has given over a slice of public highway for tests like this ... and the fact that the Berlin to Munich Autobahn is a pretty important stretch of road points to just how serious they are about this.

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