The idea of watching TV or surfing the Internet while traveling will sound downright dangerous to most people.
But under proposed updates to the Highway Code, people will be able to catch up on their favorite shows or check their emails while using self-driving cars.
This will only apply when drivers hand over control of their vehicle, maintaining a speed of up to 37 mph in a single lane.
They must be ready to take back control of their car when called upon, says the Department for Transport (Dft).
It will remain illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, as studies say they are too distracting.
While a car is in self-driving mode, insurance companies, not drivers, will be liable for claims in many circumstances, the proposed rule changes say.
Autonomous vehicles are currently not allowed on UK roads, but could be ready for use later this year, the Department for Transport says.
In preparation for their arrival, planned changes to the Highway Code, following public consultation, are expected to arrive this summer.
They have been described as a stopgap measure, to support the early adoption of self-driving cars, before more comprehensive regulations are introduced in 2025.
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said the rule changes are an “important milestone”, ensuring the country has a “strong foundation” for this “exciting technology”.
He added: “By doing so, we can help improve travel for all while driving economic growth across the country and securing Britain’s place as a global science superpower.”
In April last year, the government announced that hands-free driving would be allowed in vehicles with lane-keeping technology on congested highways.
This technology allows a car to stay in a single lane up to 37 mph and allows the driver to regain control at any time.
Autonomous driving features available in cars are currently only considered ‘assistive’, meaning drivers must always remain in control, says the DfT.
Experts have suggested that vehicles could be equipped with a safety mechanism that stops built-in screens showing any material unrelated to driving when motorists’ attention is required.
But many still worry about the possible consequences of letting go of the wheel and letting their car do all the work.
The AA’s Edmund King said: ‘Many drivers will be uncomfortable with automatic lane-keeping systems taking over their cars, even at speeds up to 37mph. Most drivers are likely to keep their hands on the wheel.
“Meanwhile, there remains a high level of skepticism among drivers who are not convinced that fully autonomous cars can co-exist with human drivers.”
But the Government still believes they will result in safer, greener and more efficient travel.
It says that eventually, self-driving cars could “improve road safety in Britain by reducing human error, which is a contributing factor in 88% of all recorded road crashes”.
Director of the RAC Foundation motoring research charity Steve Gooding said driverless cars “hold the promise of a future where deaths and injuries on our roads are significantly reduced”.
However, he said there is likely to be a “long transition period” as drivers retain “much of the responsibility for what happens” while driving the vehicles.
There have been several accidents in the US, where the use of autonomous vehicles is more advanced.
In 2018, pedestrian Elaine Herzberg, 49, was killed by a self-driving Uber in Arizona. online mail reports.
Investigators said the host, Rafaela Vasquez, was airing an episode of The Voice at the time. She is awaiting trial for murder.
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