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

Motorists were told this morning that when driverless cars arrive they will be able to watch movies while driving, but there is a list of other rules they will have to stick to.

Most of the current rules still apply, but there are also new ones

motorists with self-driving cars can watch movies while driving under the draft road traffic changes unveiled today – but there is a list of other rules that these drivers will also have to comply with.

The government today announced plans for the rules the car drivers will have to obey once self-driving cars are approved for UK roads.

Self-driving cars are supposed to help reduce accidents by reducing human error. The Department for Transport said human error was responsible for 88% of accidents on UK roads.

Cars won’t be fully automated, however, which means a confusing list of rules about what motorists can and can’t do – and when.

The plans precede full regulations which will be introduced in 2025 and, as things stand, no vehicles are approved for self-driving in Britain.

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

1) If the car breaks down, it’s not your fault

Provided the car is in autonomous mode, if the vehicle is involved in an accident, it is not the fault of the owner.

Instead, insurance companies will be liable.

2) Drivers can watch movies while driving

Changes to the traffic laws will allow drivers to gorge on their favorite box sets, watch a new movie and surf the web in self-driving cars.

Under new rules, as long as drivers stay in a single lane and below 37mph, motorists in self-driving vehicles could watch TV or the latest movies while driving.

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

Indeed, in case of emergency, on an integrated screen, the film will be cut 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 while driving.

The government said: ‘However, it will still be illegal to use mobile phones in self-driving mode, given the higher risk they pose of distracting drivers, as research shows.’

4) You must stay behind the wheel

Even if the car is moving, you must stay in the driver’s seat.

Indeed, you may need to take control in the short term.

The Department for Transport said a Briton the rules were tested on was fooled by this into thinking he was even allowed to change seats and fall asleep while the car took over.

5) You have to be sober

Just like driving a normal car, if you’re in a self-driving vehicle, you must be under drink-driving limits and not be under the influence of drugs.

6) You will still need MOT, taxes and insurance

Self-driving cars will still need to be updated with safety checks and insurance, just like other vehicles.

Government guidelines state: “The vehicle must be road legal (e.g. it must have an MOT certificate where applicable and it must be taxed and insured) and the vehicle must be roadworthy.”

7) Drivers may not have to pay speeding tickets

Owners of self-driving cars may not be criminally liable if vehicles make mistakes – meaning drivers won’t pay fines like speeding tickets.

The government’s legal advisers, the Law Commission, have proposed legislative changes making drivers safe from prosecution or fines if their robot car makes a mistake.

Currently, if the owner drives the car, any mistake is his fault.

The proposed new laws would mean that mistakes made by a self-driving car are not the fault of the owner.

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

The government said today that insurers will be liable, but it is still examining the Law Commission’s proposals.

Either way, drivers wouldn’t be responsible if their car made a mistake.

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