Driving certificate

What you can and can’t do in a self-driving car – from watching a movie to using the phone

Self-driving car users will be able to watch a movie while driving under the new draft traffic rules – but it would still be illegal for them to use their phone.

Earlier today the government unveiled a list of proposed rules for motorists will have to obey once self-driving cars are approved for use on UK roads. Self-driving cars are supposed to reduce the number of road accidents by reducing human error, the cause of 88% of accidents according to the Ministry of Transport.

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Although called “self-driving,” the vehicles won’t be fully automated, which means a confusing list of rules about what motorists can and can’t do while behind the wheel. The draft plans precede regulations due to be introduced in 2025 and at present no vehicles are approved for self-driving in Britain.

The Mirror has reported everything we know so far about how the rules will 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

Self-driving car owners 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 suggested changes to the law that would shield drivers 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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