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UK Motorists Will Be Able to Watch TV in Self-Driving Cars, Phone Usage to Remain Illegal

If your car has self-driving technology, then you’ll be able to relax while cruising around. The changes for the Highway Code are concluded for now and they’re entering the final stages of the legislative process. Here’s why watching TV will be allowed and using your mobile phone won’t. There are also clarifications regarding who’ll answer in case there’s a crash.
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UK’s Department of Transport (DoT) confirmed that drivers in autonomous cars will be allowed to watch TV under the new provisions. But it remains mandatory to regain full control of the vehicle if such a situation arises.

For now, the UK doesn’t allow self-driving cars to be operated on its roads. But with technology companies and auto manufacturers increasing pressure on the matter, we could see the first British tests happen this year.

The changes to the Highway Code are expected to enter into force in just a couple of months, thanks to the public consultation phase being ended at this point.

Driver-assist features are already enabled in the kingdom, but they don't absolve you of any responsibility on the road. For example, you can use Tesla's Autopilot only if you're keeping your hands on the steering wheel. Even though some motorists don't always do this, the law is clear.

UK authorities want to allow the use of self-driving technology in a limited matter at first, which means drivers will enjoy their favorite show on the go only if they’re stuck in traffic or find themselves on the highway going at a maximum speed of 37 mph (60 kph).

Even though you’ll be allowed to take your hands off the steering wheel while the vehicle drives itself, UK’s DoT said mobile phones still can’t be used according to the new rules.

The UK is expected to roll out the full-fledged law that will change the Highway Code for good in 2025, when drivers will have the opportunity to completely rely on the autonomous technology provided by manufacturers. According to BBC, DoT estimates this change will prompt the creation of at least 38,000 new jobs.

Finally, the modifications say that you won’t be held liable in case of a crash. This will fall into the insurance company’s responsibilities, with some exceptions. There’s still a long way to go until autonomous cars replace drivers for good, but this is a start that’ll allow the UK to catch up with the U.S.


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