Self-driving cars move a step closer as MPs prepare to allow drivers to watch TV

Driverless cars: Oxbotica trials autonomous tech in London

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The possibility of drivers on UK roads being able to perform other tasks while driving, including watching films and TV, moves ever closer as MPs have launched an inquiry into the development and deployment of self-driving vehicles.

The Transport Select Committee announced it is investigating what needs to happen for driverless cars to become a common sight on public roads.

That will include assessing safety issues and considering the relationship with other road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and users of conventional vehicles, reported Wales Online.

The committee will look at the progress of research and trials into autonomous and connected vehicles in the UK and the likely uses of them for private motoring, public transport and commercial driving.

Any changes needed to regulations such as the vehicles’ legal status, insurance and authorisation processes will also be probed.

Fully driverless cars are not yet legally permitted in the UK, but autonomous features are already in use in some cars.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced proposed changes to the Highway Code in April this year which mean users of self-driving cars will be allowed to watch television programmes and films on built-in screens, but using a phone will remain illegal.

The update to the Code will also state that users will not be responsible for crashes, with insurance companies liable for claims.

But motorists must be ready to take back control of vehicles when needed.

The development of self-driving vehicles could create around 38,000 new jobs in Britain and be worth £41.7 billion to the economy by 2035, according to the DfT.

In April last year, the department said it would allow hands-free driving in vehicles with lane-keeping technology on congested motorways, at speeds of up to 37mph.

A full regulatory framework for self-driving vehicles is expected to be in place by 2025.

Oxford-based technology firm Oxbotica completed its first fully autonomous, driverless vehicle test on publicly accessible roads last month.

The fully electric vehicle used a combination of radar and laser-based systems to enable it to be operated on the city’s roads with no on-board driver.

Oxbotica hopes the vehicle’s first on-road business use will take place next year, with Ocado Group, delivering groceries.

Last week, the Law Commission of England and Wales began seeking views on regulating remote driving, which involves vehicles being controlled by someone potentially several miles away.

The closing date for written evidence to the Transport Select Committee is August 22.

Remote driving is a new technology that enables an individual to drive a vehicle from a distant location.

Although examples already exist today – operating in controlled environments such as warehouses, farms and mines, the Law Commission’s report explores how the existing legal framework applies to remote driving on UK roads involving all road users, reported the RAC.

And the most striking admission in the paper stated the threat posed by the technology when it comes to national safety.

The report stated: “A concern is that a driver might find it easier to use a vehicle as a terrorist weapon if they are remote.

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