New legislation is paving the way for self-driving cars on UK roads, with drivers being able to watch television on built-in screens while the car is driving itself.
The UK is amending its highway code to pave the way for fully self-driving cars to hit the roads as soon as the second half of this year.
Self-driving cars, which people can use to travel without needing to control the vehicle in certain parts of the journey, have seen advancements in leaps and bounds in recent years. Now, draft legislation in the UK is a sign of governments catching up to make the most of the technology.
According to the new rules, drivers in the UK can sit back and relinquish control when the self-driving function is turned on in cars that meet stringent criteria to qualify as self-driving. The rules point out that self-driving vehicles differ from vehicles that are fitted only with assisted driving features such as cruise control and lane assist.
When using a full self-driving mode, the new legislation will allow drivers to divert their attention from driving to forms of entertainment such as watching films and television on built-in screens in the vehicle.
Using handheld mobile devices, however, will remain illegal as drivers need to be ready at all times to take back control when needed.
“If a self-driving vehicle needs to hand control back to the driver, it will give you enough warning to do this safely. You must always be able and ready to take control, and do it when the vehicle prompts you,” the government specified.
Other commonplace road rules, such as a prohibition on drink driving or driving under the influence of drugs, will still apply. Drivers must also always be alert and awake when the car is in self-driving mode.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in the UK, said that qualifying technology could be available in the UK later this year, helping clear traffic congestion and making roads safer and more environmentally friendly.
“With the right regulations in place, consumers are set to benefit from safer, more efficient journeys while the UK will strengthen its position as a global leader in the deployment of self-driving technology,” he said in a statement published on the UK government website.
In February, Jaguar Land Rover announced that it was teaming up with Nvidia to bring autonomous tech to its cars starting 2025. Other big players, such as Tesla, Mercedes, Intel’s Mobileye and even Apple, have been making inroads in the self-driving space.
10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.