The United Kingdom is looking at adapting rules for the developing driver assistance tech.
True self-driving cars are still some way from public roads, but the technology is advancing at a commendable rate with new innovations and ideas coming to light regularly. Until the tech is ready, semi-autonomous systems are the way to go, even if one of the most effective is badly named (Full Self-Driving as found on a Tesla Model Y is the obvious reference here). Because of the numerous reports surrounding crashes while this system is engaged, it's no surprise that many are averse to the idea of a car driving around with nobody in control of it. In fact, a survey carried out by Volkswagen last year found that 46% of the British public did not trust an AI-based system over their own skills.
Despite this, the BBC is now reporting that "people using self-driving cars will be allowed to watch television on built-in screens under proposed updates to the Highway Code."
The local government has said that drivers must be ready to take back control of the vehicle when prompted and that the use of a cellphone while driving remains illegal. Interestingly, this rule on allowing one to watch television while driving is a preemptive change to the law, with the Department for Transport (DfT) explaining that it expects self-driving cars to potentially be ready for use on UK roads later this year.
The planned changes to the highway code are likely to come into effect during the summer and arrive following public consultation. The idea is that this will help increase the support and early adoption of self-driving technology when it does become available. Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said that the updates to the road laws will be a "major milestone in our safe introduction to self-driving vehicles."
Interestingly, the drivers of these vehicles will not be responsible in the event of a crash. Instead, insurance companies will be liable for claims in most circumstances, says the DfT. This comes after the UK government announced a year ago that hands-free driving in vehicles with lane-keeping technology would be legal.
As expected, some industry experts have warned that self-driving vehicles should automatically switch off the screen in the car when the driver is required to take back control, but it remains to be seen if the government will require this.
As for what this means for us, the answer is not much, not yet. However, the fact that lawmakers across the globe are slowly starting to define how self-driving cars will be legislated is cause for celebration. The sooner the industry has a clear operational goal for the technology in sight, the faster the tech can be advanced and true self-driving can become a reality. Of course, we still have a long way to go, but at least it's a start.