Drivers will be known as vehicle users in autonomous cars

11 February, 2015

F or the first time since the invention of motor vehicles, the 'driver' will be able to choose whether they want to be in control, or to hand the task of driving over to the vehicle itself. 

No longer termed drivers but 'vehicle users', they will also be able to swivel their front seat to turn their back on the road ahead to speak to other occupants in the back of their self-driving car. 
They won't even need a driving licence.  And even those now considered 'unfit' to drive will be eligible.

Motorists will be able to text on hand-held mobile phones, read the paper, use their laptop and possibly even be drunk inside a 'driverless' car.

Changes to the Highway Code and the MOT test will be necessary to accommodate driverless cars on the roads of the UK, a Department of Transport report has revealed.

It will publish a code of practice in the spring which will allow the testing of autonomous cars to go ahead.

The government promised a full review of current legislation by the summer of 2017

That review will consider whether a higher standard of driving should be demanded of automated vehicles.

It will also look at who would be responsible in the event of a collision and how to ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrians.

The Department of Transport report acknowledged that true driverless cars may be some way off and that current tests of the technology will need to include a qualified test driver to supervise the vehicle.

"Driverless vehicle technology has the potential to be a real game-change on the UK's roads, altering the face of motoring in the most fundamental of ways and delivering major benefits for road safety, social inclusion, emissions and congestion," said transport minister Claire Perry.

Road legal trials begin today until the first truly self-drive cars are made available to the public from around 2020.  The government is providing £19m to launch four driverless car schemes in four UK locations, including a fully autonomous shuttle in Greenwich and a BAE System-developed Wildcat vehicle, which will be tested in Bristol.

Self-drive pods that will be tested in Milton Keynes and Coventry were also unveiled for the first time.

Prof Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "These trials are not just about harnessing technology to make our travelling lives easier and safer, they also involve getting the regulation right.

Alongside the hi-tech innovation you need policy decisions on long-term, low-tech matters such as who takes responsibility if things go wrong.


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