Economy, Auto

Merkel Backs Self-Driving Cars

Merkel Backs Self-Driving CarsMerkel Backs Self-Driving Cars

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told automakers that they should soon be able to test self-driving vehicles on the country's roads by promising to remove legal barriers.

Germany is home to some of the world's biggest car companies, including Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG, and Merkel said the industry should draw up a wish list for Berlin to help develop self-driving vehicles, ideally with a timetable.

The ruling coalition will meet at the end of May to discuss next projects and if the to-do list is ready by then, the Cabinet could go ahead with creating the legal basis to test such vehicles, she told an industry event in Berlin, Automotive News Europe reported.

"That's not a disputed topic in the coalition," Merkel told an audience that included Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche.

Companies worldwide are currently working on prototypes for self-driving vehicles, but such cars are not expected to be available for the mass market before 2020.

The German government is also considering supporting the development of and demand for electric cars in Germany.

A senior lawmaker from the Social Democrats, who shares power with Merkel's conservatives, said he expected the coalition to agree on measures on Wednesday.

"I'm optimistic that we can convince [Finance Minister Wolfgang] Schaeuble tomorrow," Hubertus Heil said.

Schaeuble said last month that the government would find a way to support the development of electric cars, but would not be able to fulfill all the hopes of the car industry.

German industry leaders have pressed the government to introduce incentives to boost demand for electric cars, arguing that such support is required if the country is to retain its prominent role as a car producer.