Watching TV in driverless cars gets a green tick

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Proposed changes in the UK will allow drivers to watch screens while the car is in driverless mode, but not allow the use of devices such as mobiles.

Drivers in the UK will be able to watch television while in a moving car under planned changes to the Highway Code that address the impending roll-out of self-driving vehicles.

Despite drivers being allowed to view content not related to driving on built-in display screens when the self-driving vehicle is in control, it will still be illegal to use mobile phones in the same scenario.

The country’s Department for Transport (DfT) said that research has shown that mobile phones pose a greater risk in distracting drivers.

Other changes to the Highway Code are intended to ensure the first wave of self-driving technology will be used safely, explaining that while the vehicle is travelling in self-driving mode, the motorist must be ready to take back control in a timely manner if prompted, such as when a motorway exit is approaching.

The Code also now states: “While an automated vehicle is driving itself, you are not responsible for how it drives, and you do not need to pay attention to the road.”

The UK’s Government is predicting that the country’s first vehicles approved for self-driving could be ready for use later this year. It added that vehicles will “undergo rigorous testing and only be approved as self-driving when they have met stringent standards”.

The first step towards self-driving cars is likely to be vehicles travelling at slow speeds on motorways in congested traffic. So-called ALKS (automated lane-keeping systems) enable a vehicle to drive itself in a single lane up to 60km/hh, with the driver able to take back control if required.

Global driverless car progress

The race for self-driving cars has slowed in recent years, as manufacturers have chosen to prioritise investment into electrification rather than accelerating autonomous technology.

Some countries around the world are significantly further ahead: China is one example, which has fewer legislatory holes to jump through as an autocratic state.

The US state of California has also been at the forefront of self-driving legislation, allowing a number of manufacturers to test there. Last year, self-driving car firm Cruise was authorised to offer the state’s first pilot programme to provide driverless ride services to the public.

Cruise, a self-driving car service out of San Francisco, has been authorised to participate in the state’s first pilot program to provide driverless ride services to the public.

Rachel Burgess

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