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This week the government announced plans to update the Highway Code to include self-driving cars. We’ve got all the expected changes as well as a quick guide to autonomous cars and how they work below!

What is an Autonomous Car? And How Does it Work?

An autonomous car is one that drives itself! There aren’t any fully autonomous cars at the minute, but more brands are launching models with autonomous modes.  

When the self-driving (autonomous) mode is activated the vehicle will use a combination of advance technology, including radar and sensors, in order to detect the environment around it and drive appropriately through the area.

As no cars are fully autonomous yet drivers are advised that they need to remain alert and prepared to take control of the vehicle if the car prompts them to do so, or if the road / traffic conditions change and the car can no longer handle them.

Self-Driving Cars in the UK

Currently there are no cars with a self-driving mode in the UK however the Department for Transport (DfT) has advised that they are likely to be on the roads as early as the end of 2022 provided appropriate guidance is in place.

It’s expected that to begin with autonomous mode will only be allowed on larger, straight roads such as the motorway and bigger A roads and in low-speed conditions, such as when the road is heavily congested. These conditions will minimise the risk to the driver and other road users and maximise

Why Does the Highway Code Need to Change?

The changes to the Highway Code will ensure that there are clear and established rules so that drivers, and other road users, understand what the expectations of them are even when driving in autonomous mode. Additionally, they help the rest of the industry to develop their own guidelines and policies based on the laws. For example, insurance providers can adapt their policies to appropriately cover self-driving cars.

What’s Changing?

The most notable change from the latest announcement is that drivers of autonomous vehicles will be able to use the screens to watch films and online streaming services whilst the vehicle is in self-driving mode.

The use of mobile phones and other handheld devices will still be illegal as it is under current regulations for all drivers.

The planned changes are expected to come into the Highway Code over the summer and we’ll keep you posted as we hear more.


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