Watching TV from behind the wheel of a self-driving car to be allowed under UK law

An example of the infotainment screen in the Tesla Model 3 (not currently standalone).
Photo by James Bareham/The Verge

UK drivers will effectively be allowed to watch TV while driving a self-driving car, under new rules announced by the country’s Department of Transport. Although drivers are currently prohibited from viewing ‘non-driving related content’ on a ‘television receiving device’, this rule would be waived in specific circumstances once the proposals come into effect. The new rules are expected to be introduced into the UK Highway Code over the summer, according to BBC News.

The ability to watch TV comes with some restrictions. A car will need to drive itself at this time and the driver should be prepared to regain control of the vehicle if necessary. Importantly, drivers will only be allowed to view content “through the in-vehicle infotainment device”. The idea here is that an infotainment system can stop playing a TV show or movie when the car needs the driver’s attention, unlike a phone. The use of a mobile phone while driving, whatever its use, will remain illegal.

But perhaps the biggest restriction is that the new rules only apply to cars registered as self-driving under UK law, and the page listing those vehicles is currently conspicuously empty. At present, there are no self-driving vehicles listed for use in Britain,” it read. However, the Department for Transport is optimistic that the first such vehicles could be ready for use “later this year”, although the exact technical standard a car will have to meet to qualify as “self-driving” is unclear. is not yet clear.

The proposed rules, however, clarify that “autonomous driving” is different from cars with “assisted driving features,” which can handle some driving tasks but leave the driver in charge overall. Examples of these include cruise control and lane keeping assist.

The new rules are intended as an interim measure before a comprehensive regulatory framework due to be introduced in 2025. In addition to changing rules on the use of screens, the rules of the road are also updated to clarify important differences between autonomous driving and driver assistance technologies, and will also offer more details on the rules that still apply to a driver even when driving a self-driving car (such as being within the legal limits of intoxication).

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