What you can and can’t do in self-driving cars – from drinking to using phone

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Under draft Highway Code changes revealed today, motorists with self-driving cars can watch movies while on the road – but they will also have to follow a list of strict rules.

The UK Government today announced proposed rules drivers will have to observe once self-driving cars are allowed on UK roads, the Mirror reports.

The aim of self-driving cars is to limit human error behind the wheel.

The Department for Transport said 88% of UK road crashes are caused by human error.

But self driving cars will not be fully automatic, meaning a list of confusing list of rules about what motorists can and can’t do – and when.

The plans come ahead of full regulations that will be introduced in 2025 and as it stands, there are no vehicles approved for self-driving in Britain.

Here is everything we know so far about how the rules will work for motorists with self-driving cars.

1. If the car crashes, it’s not your fault

Provided the car is in self-driving mode, if the vehicle is involved in an accident it is not the owner’s fault.

Instead, insurance companies will be liable.

2. Drivers can watch films behind the wheel

Changes to the Highway Code will allow drivers to binge their favorite boxsets, watch a new film and surf the web in self-driving cars.

Under new rules, as long as drivers keep in a single lane and below 37mph, motorists in autonomous vehicles could watch TV or the latest movies while they drive

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Relaxed man in autonomous car.  self driving vehicle.  autopilot.  automotive technology.
Users of self-driving would be allowed to watch TV under new proposals

But this will only be allowed if drivers watch films on built-in screens, not separate devices like laptops and phones.

This is because in the event of an emergency, on a built-in screen the film will cut out and the driver will be alerted.

3. You can’t use a phone – at all

Even if the car is in control, it will be illegal to use a phone behind the wheel.

The government said: “It will, however, still be illegal to use mobile phones in self-driving mode, given the greater risk they pose in distracting drivers as shown in research.”

4. You have to stay in the driving seat

Even if the car is driving, you have to remain in the driver’s seat.

This is because you may have to take control at short notice.

The Department for Transport said one Brit the rules were tested on was bamboozled by this, thinking they were even allowed to change seats and go to sleep while the car took over.

5. You have to be proud

Just like driving a normal car, if you are in a self-driving vehicle you have to be under the drink drive limits and not be under the influence of drugs.

6. You will still need MOTs, tax and insurance

Self-driving cars will still need to be kept up to date with safety checks and insurance just like other vehicles.

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Government guidance says: “The vehicle must be road legal (for example it must have a MOT certificate, if applicable and it must be taxed and insured) and the vehicle must be roadworthy.”

7. Drivers might not have to pay speeding tickets

Owners of self-driving cars might not be criminally liable if the vehicles make mistakes – meaning drivers will not pay fines like speeding tickets.

The government’s legal advisers, the Law Commission, have suggested law changes making drivers immune from persecution or fines if their robot car makes a mistake.

Currently, if the owner is driving the car then any errors are their fault.

The proposed new laws would mean mistakes made by a car driving itself are not the owner’s fault.

Instead, the car maker or designer of the self-driving car software will be responsible.

The government said today insurers will be responsible, but it is still considering the Law Commission’s proposals.

Either way, drivers would not be liable if their car makes a mistake.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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