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The UK could become the first country that permits drivers to take their hands off the wheel while on the road as driverless cars become more prominent.

Currently, many new cars come with safety assistance features that help drivers to keep a safe distance and stay in their lane, but drivers must always remain in full control of the vehicle.

However, according to the Sunday Times, transport secretary Grant Shapps is planning for motorists to be able to take a metaphorical back seat, though only in certain conditions.

The technologies that allow ‘self-driving’ are said to be just confined to roads where traffic moving in opposite sections of road are separated – typical dual carriageways, for example. It would also only apply in traffic up to 37mph, though the government is said to be seeking views on whether the Autonomous Lane Keeping System (ALKS) could be allowed at up to 70mph. This technology uses radars and cameras to make sure a car keeps in lane.

According to the Sunday Times, senior officials from the Department for Transport told insurers that the technology could permit drivers to “watch a film, send texts or check emails at the wheel from the summer”.

Despite the announcement, though, many experts fear the technology isn’t quite ready to be rolled out. Safety organisation Thatcham Research has previously said: “Safety must be a key priority, and this must not be compromised to achieve a leadership position.”

Ted Welford

By

January 25, 2021