The United Kingdom took steps Monday to join in the global adoption of driverless vehicles, enacted legislation that makes driverless cars street legal though curiously not so driverless. If the new laws are in place long term the future of driverless road transportation in England and possibly other parts of the world hardly looks like the stuff of dreams.
The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) has laid down the law regarding driverless technology. The advent of driverless vehicles was seen by many as the end of traffic legislation because machines have rules engraved into their systems. Unlike humans, they are infallible. They neither break the law nor make mistakes. However, UK lawmakers are not taking any chances. Through a new set of rules to be released by the DfT, road users keen on acquiring driverless vehicles will have a lengthy set of guidelines to follow.
Some of the rules have not changed. Car owners, for example, will still have to get insurance cover and a roadworthiness certificate. However, beyond that, everything else is different.
Perhaps the most peculiar rule is that owners must “maintain the regular appearance of someone driving a car – like looking in the correct direction when at junctions… to not confuse other motorists.” This effectively means that operators must look like they are in control of the vehicle, even though they are not, which effectively takes away the whole purpose of having a driverless vehicles.
Other regulations prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages or drugs before going into their cars and consequently on the road. Also, use of mobile phones inside the vehicles is strictly outlawed.
Additional features are expected to be fitted inside the vehicles before they can be deemed roadworthy. They include a “black box” similar to those found on aircrafts. The black boxes would be responsible for “capturing data from the sensor and control systems associated with the automated features as well as other information concerning the vehicle’s movement.” The feature will improve the operators’ experience by ensuring their safety on the road.
With driverless technology already being rolled out in multiple states across the globe, legislative backing is required. Yet while the UK has set the pace for other countries lagging behind in adoption due to no proper legal framework it appears it may have jumped the gun and crafted rules that severely handicap the bright future of a promising technology yet to be fully developed or understood by lawmakers.
After all, who wants to pretend to drive a driverless vehicle.