UK moves on regulation change to facilitate autonomous driving adoption 

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The UK government has confirmed planned changes to the country’s Highway Code which it says paves the way for increased adoption of autonomous driving technology.

The changes to the code, which are the result of a public consultation will help ensure the first wave of technology will be used safely, explaining clearly that while traveling in self-driving mode, motorists must be ready to resume control in a timely way if they are prompted to – such as when they approach motorway exits.

The plans also include a change to current regulation, allowing drivers to view content that is not related to driving on built-in display screens, while the self-driving vehicle is in control. It will, however, still be illegal to use mobile phones in self-driving mode, given the greater risk they pose in distracting drivers, as shown in research.

With self-driving technology rapidly developing across the globe, the government envisages that the UK’s first vehicles approved for self-driving could be ready for use later this year. It is also continuing to develop a full legal framework for self-driving vehicles, due to be completed by 2025, and the Department for Transport will also work with industry, regulators and safety organizations to ensure drivers can access information, including online, to help them use the vehicles safely.

UK Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said, “This is a major milestone in our safe introduction of self-driving vehicles, which will revolutionize the way we travel, making our future journeys greener, safer and more reliable. This exciting technology is developing at pace right here in Great Britain and we’re ensuring we have strong foundations in place for drivers when it takes to our roads. 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.”

The measures follow a public consultation launched by the government, which found the majority of respondents were broadly supportive of the proposed changes to The Highway Code in order to clarify drivers’ responsibilities in self-driving vehicles.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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