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Motorists in Britain with self-driving cars may be able to watch TV while on the roads under changes proposed to the Highway Code.

Technology in the driving sector has grown exponentially over the last quarter of a century, with the rise of electric vehicles, self-driving vehicles and other modes of transportation.

The Department for Transport has acknowledged that, although there are currently no self-driving cars that can be legally operated on UK roads, it needs to look to the future and lay out rules for when, not if, that occurs.

According to the Department for Transport's definition, a self-driving car is “capable of safely driving themselves when the self-driving function is correctly turned on and the driver follows the manufacturer’s instructions”.

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In that sense, they are different from cars that have the ability to enable cruise control or lane-keeping technology.

An update to the Highway Code states that “while the vehicle is driving itself, you do not need to monitor it”.

It continues: “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.”

Under the changes, while inside a self-driving vehicle people will be able to view content, but the caveat of it being illegal to use hand-held phones or devices while at the wheel remain in place.

Since cars may need to give manual control back to the driver, this means drivers will be required to be in a fit state to drive and refrain from any illegal activity, including hand-held phone use.

Trudy Harrison, the government’s transport secretary, said this update to the Highway Code is a “major milestone in our safe introduction of self-driving vehicles”.

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