UK regulators will allow drivers to watch TV in autonomous cars

Drivers must be ready to take back control, of course.


With self-driving vehicles possibly arriving on UK roads later this year, the government is starting to put rules in place to accommodate them, the BBC has reported. As part of that, it will allow drivers in autonomous vehicles to watch TV from an infotainment screen in self-driving mode, as long as they're ready to take back control. That's a modification of a law that has been on the books since 1986 that prohibits drivers from viewing a "television-receiving apparatus" when behind the wheel.

It will still not allow the use of mobile phones, which were officially banned in the UK last year. That's because automakers can implement technology to stop a car's built-in screen from displaying content when the driver needs to take back control, but can't do the same on a smartphone. The government also decided that insurance companies and not people will be liable for accident claims in a number of circumstances. The changes will be an "interim measure" until an all-new set of rules can be put in place by 2025.

Self-driving cars are not yet legal in the UK, but the Department for Transport (DfT) said they may be ready later in 2022. A year ago, the government announced that basic self-driving cars with automated lane-keeping systems could arrive on British roads by the end of last year.

The UK government predicted that self-driving tech could "improve road safety across Britain by reducing human error, which is a contributory factor in 88 percent of all recorded road collisions." In the meantime, though, self-driving tech has gone nowhere over the last few years, apart from a few exceptions like GM's Cruise offering public driverless taxi rides in San Francisco.