Watching TV in self-driving cars to be allowed, won’t be responsible for crashes

Passengers in self-driving cars will be allowed to watch TV and won't be responsible for any crashes, according to proposed changes to Highway Code

Self-driving cars


People using self-driving cars will be permitted to watch television on in-built screens while on the road, under proposed updates being made to the Highway Code.

The controversial changes are intended to support the early adoption of the technology, which is being rigorously tested by a series of manufacturers with support from a number of tech and transport companies, such as Apple, Google and Uber.

As it stands, self-driving transport is not permitted on UK roads but the Department for Transport (DfT) is looking to begin testing in public by the end of the year before models with self-driving capabilities are rolled out in 2025.

The updates come following a public consultation and will allow ‘drivers’ to watch television on in-built screens so long as they are prepared to take over the control of the vehicle in a precarious situation. Despite this, using a mobile phone while driving will remain illegal.

While self-driving cars are not legal in full form on UK roads, a number of cars have limited ‘assisted’ capabilities, such as lane maintenance and automated braking that cuts in before the driver if sensors predict a crash.

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How could this affect motorcycle riders?

While the promotion of self-driving cars has focused on their greener capabilities and the premise that a plethora of sensors placed around the car would be more alert than a driver could be, there is concern not enough research has been done to ensure it can recognise and react to quick-moving ‘items’, such as motorcycles.

Indeed, a consultation was launched last year that could limit what motorcyclists could do to customise their machine because a self-driving car won’t be able to recognise and understand the capabilities of a motorcycle that wasn’t in its standard form.

While many have accepted self-driving cars are on the way, the news that passengers will be allowed to distract themselves watching television despite the requirement to be prepared to take over will cause worry for other road users.

Moreover, as part of the changes, individuals in self-driving cars will not be held responsible for any crashes, leaving insurance companies to pick up the tab, thus potentially running the risk of raising premiums across the board