UK drivers can soon watch films while cars drive themselvesVish Gainon April 25, 2022 at 08:15 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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The UK has amended its highway code to pave the way for fully self-driving cars to hit the roads as soon as the second half of this year.

Self-driving cars, which people can use to travel without needing to control the vehicle in certain parts of the journey such as highways, have seen advancements in leaps and bounds in recent years. Now, the amended legislation is a sign of governments catching up to make the most of the technology.

According to the new rules, drivers in the UK, including Northern Ireland, can sit back and relinquish control when the self-driving function is turned on in cars that must meet stringent criteria to qualify as self-driving.

When using this mode, the new legislation allows drivers to divert their attention from driving to forms of entertainment such as watching films and videos. Using hand-held mobile devices, however, remains illegal as drivers need to be ready at all times to take back control when needed.

“If a self-driving vehicle needs to hand control back to the driver, it will give you enough warning to do this safely. You must always be able and ready to take control, and do it when the vehicle prompts you,” the new legislation reads.

Other commonplace rules, such as a prohibition on drink driving or driving under the influence of drugs, still apply. Drivers must also always be alert and awake when the car is in self-driving mode.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in the UK, said that qualifying technology could be available in the UK later this year, helping clear traffic congestion and making roads safer and more environment-friendly.

“With the right regulations in place, consumers are set to benefit from safer, more efficient journeys while the UK will strengthen its position as a global leader in the deployment of self-driving technology,” he said in a statement published on the UK government website.

In February, Indian-owned British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover announced that it was teaming up with Nvidia to bring self-driving tech to its cars starting 2025. Other big players, such as Mercedes, Intel’s Mobileye, and even Apple, have been making in-roads in the self-driving space.

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