Watching TV but not using phone will be legal in self-driving cars

Checking your emails while on the road may be allowed under new driving rules (Picture: Shutterstock)

The idea of ​​watching TV or browsing the internet while on the road will sound downright dangerous to most people.

But under proposed updates to the Highway Code, people will be able to catch up on their favorite shows or check their emails while using self-driving cars.

This will only apply when drivers hand over control of their vehicle – keeping a speed of up to 37mph in a single lane.

They must be ready to take back control of their car when prompted, the Department for Transport (Dft) says.

It will still be illegal to use a mobile phone behind the wheel, as studies say they are too distracting.

While a car is in self-driving mode, insurance companies – not drivers – will be liable for claims in many circumstances, the proposed rule changes say.

Autonomous vehicles are not currently allowed on UK roads, but they could be ready for use later this year, the Department of Transport says.

Tesla videos demonstrate how autopilot features work.

Self-driving technology is more advanced in the US, but there have already been several accidents (Picture: Tesla)

In preparation for their arrival, planned changes to the Highway Code, following a public consultation, are expected to come this summer.

They have been described as an interim measure, to support the early adoption of self-driving cars, before fuller regulations are introduced in 2025.

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said the rule changes are a ‘major milestone’, ensuring the country has ‘strong foundations’ for this ‘exciting technology’.

She added: ‘In doing so, we can help improve travel for all while boosting economic growth across the nation and securing Britain’s place as a global science superpower.’

In April last year, the Government announced that hands-free driving in vehicles with lane-keeping technology would be allowed on congested motorways.

This technology lets a car stick to a single lane of up to 37mph while allowing the driver to take back control at any time.

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The new rules will require drivers to be ready to take the wheel again when necessary (Picture: Shutterstock)

Currently self-driving features available in cars are only considered ‘assistive’, meaning drivers should always retain control, the DfT says.

Experts have suggested that vehicles could be fitted with a safety mechanism that stops built-in screens showing any non-driving related material when a motorists’ attention is required.

But many still have concerns about the potential consequences of letting go of the wheel and letting your car do all the work.

Edmund King of the AA said: ‘Many drivers will be uneasy with automatic lane-keeping systems taking over their cars even if at speeds of up to 37mph. It is likely that most drivers would keep their hands on the wheel.

‘Meanwhile, there remains a large level of skepticism among the driving public who are unconvinced that fully autonomous cars can co-exist alongside human drivers.’

But the Government still believes they will result in safer, greener and more efficient journeys.

It says that eventually, self-driving cars could ‘improve road safety across Britain by reducing human error, which is a contributing factor in 88% of all recorded road collisions’.

Director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, Steve Gooding, said driverless cars ‘promise a future where death and injury on our roads are cut significantly’.

However, he said there is likely to be a ‘long period of transition’ while drivers retain ‘much of the responsibility for what happens’ while operating vehicles.

There have been several crashes in the US – where the use of autonomous vehicles is more advanced.

In 2018, pedestrian Elaine Herzberg, 49, was killed by a self-driving Uber in Arizona, MailOnline reports.

Investigators said the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, was streaming an episode of The Voice at the time. She is awaiting a homicide trial.

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