Netflix ‘n’ chill? Watching TV in self-driving cars to be allowed

Date Posted 20th April 2022
Read Time 3 min read

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced changes to the Highway Code that will enable drivers to experience the full benefits of the first self-driving vehicles when they arrive.

The changes to the code will help ensure the first wave of technology will be used safely and explain clearly the motorist’s responsibilities while travelling in self-driving mode, with drivers required to resume control in a timely way if they are prompted.

Volvo and Uber team to explore self-driving cars
Volvo and Uber has teamed to explore self-driving tech

The plans also include a change to current regulation, allowing drivers to view content such as movies and TV shows on infotainment screens while the self-driving vehicle is in control.

It will still be illegal to use mobile phones in self-driving mode however, given the greater risk they pose in distracting drivers as shown in research.

Automated Lane Keeping Assist: The key to self-driving cars?

Britain’s first vehicles approved for self-driving are expected to be road-ready for use later this year, with vehicles fitted with automated lane keeping system (ALKS) technology expected to be the first examples.

Designed for use on a motorway in slow traffic, ALKS enables a vehicle to drive itself in a single lane, up to 37 mph, while maintaining the ability to return control easily and safely to the driver when required.

Vehicles will undergo rigorous testing and only be approved as self-driving when they have met stringent standards. The introduction of the technology is likely to begin with vehicles travelling at slow speeds on motorways, such as in congested traffic.

It is expected that self-driving technology in cars, buses and delivery vehicles could spark the beginning of the end of urban congestion, with traffic lights and vehicles communicating with each other to keep traffic flowing. This will further help reduce emissions and improve air quality in our towns and cities.  

self-driving cars communicating

The measures confirmed today 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 to clarify drivers’ responsibilities in self-driving vehicles.

The government expects to have a full regulatory framework in place to support the widespread deployment of self-driving technology by 2025, helping to make the movement of people and goods safer, greener and more efficient.

Industry reaction

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The Highway Code has been updated a number of times in recent years to reflect the rapidly changing transport world we live in and these latest additions will help us all understand what we must and must not do as we move forward to an environment where cars drive themselves.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The technology could be available in the UK later this year and, with the right regulations in place, consumers are set to benefit from safer, more efficient journeys while the UK will strengthen its position as a global leader in the deployment of self-driving technology.”