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A new section for self-driving vehicles has been added to the Highway Code

From today (1 July) new rules on the use of self-driving vehicles in Great Britain have come into force. The changes are included in a new section in The Highway Code which can be accessed for free on GOV.UK.

Currently only vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems are available in the UK.

No vehicles in Great Britain have been classed as self-driving yet but they could start to be as soon as next year. Any that are classed as self-driving will be listed on GOV.UK.

What’s changing in the new section

The changes to the Code will help ensure the new technology will be used safely, explaining clearly that while travelling 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. It also includes details about appropriate insurance needed for self-driving cars.

The plans also include a change to current regulation, allowing drivers to view content which 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.

The government is working with the manufacturer, retailer and leasing industries to ensure that anyone accessing a self-driving vehicle will receive advice on how to use it.

What does the rule explain specifically?

By ‘self-driving vehicles’, we mean those listed as automated vehicles by the Secretary of State for Transport under the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018.

To check if your vehicle is self-driving, visit Self-driving vehicles listed for use in Great Britain.

These vehicles are capable of safely driving themselves when the self-driving function is correctly turned on and the driver follows the manufacturer’s instructions. While the vehicle is driving itself, you do not need to monitor it.

Self-driving vehicles differ from vehicles that are fitted only with assisted driving features (like cruise control and lane-keeping assistance). Assisted driving features can do some of the driving, but the driver still needs to be responsible for driving at all times. If you are driving a vehicle using only its assisted driving features, Rule 150 applies.

A self-driving vehicle’s ability to drive itself may be limited to certain situations or parts of a journey. Things like the type of road, time of day, weather, location and speed may affect this. You should follow the manufacturer’s instructions about when and how to use the self-driving function safely.

While a self-driving vehicle is driving itself in a valid situation, you are not responsible for how it drives. You may turn your attention away from the road and you may also view content through the vehicle’s built-in infotainment apparatus, if available.

But you MUST still follow all relevant laws

  • You MUST be fit to drive (for example, you must be within the drink-drive legal limits and not be under the influence of drugs). See Rules 90 to 96.

  • The vehicle MUST be road legal (for example, it must have an MOT certificate, if applicable, and it must be taxed and insured). The vehicle must be roadworthy (see Rules 89 and 97; and Annexes 3 and 6). You will also still be responsible for your passengers and anything else you are carrying (see Rules 98 to 102).

  • You MUST NOT do anything illegal – like using a handheld mobile phone, or similar hand-held device. There are exceptions to this, which are set out in Rule 149.

If a self-driving vehicle needs to hand control back to the driver, it will give you enough warning to do this safely. You MUST always be able and ready to take control, and do it when the vehicle prompts you. For example, you should stay in the driving seat and stay awake. When you have taken back control or turned off the self-driving function, you are responsible for all aspects of driving.


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