UK drivers will effectively be allowed to watch a movie while behind the wheel of a self-driving car, under new rules announced by the country’s Department for Transport. Drivers are currently restricted from viewing “non-driving related content” on a “television-receiving apparatus,” this rule would be waived under specific circumstances once the proposals come into force which could be mid-2022.
This ability to be entertained while watching a screen comes with some restrictions though. A car will need to be driving itself at the time, and the driver must be ready to take back control of the vehicle if required. Importantly, drivers will only be allowed to view content “through the vehicle’s built-in infotainment apparatus.” The thinking here is that the screen system can stop showing a TV show or film when the car needs the driver’s attention, unlike a phone. Using a handheld phone while driving, regardless of its use, will remain illegal.
Currently, perhaps the most significant restriction is that these proposed new rules only apply to cars that are registered as sself-drivingunder British law. At the moment, the page listing such vehicles is currently empty implying that at the present, there are no self-driving vehicles listed for use in the UK.
The proposed rules do make clear, though, that “self-driving” is different from cars with “assisted driving features,” which can handle some driving tasks but leave the driver responsible overall. Examples of these include cruise control and lane-keeping assistance.
The new rules are meant as an interim measure ahead of a full regulatory framework that’s due to be introduced in 2025. As well as changing the rules about screen-use, the Code is also being updated to clarify the differences between self-driving and driving assistance technologies that are an intermediary step.