Driverless cars may bring city centres to a halt unless Highway Code is re-written

Author

Steven Swinford Deputy Poltical Editor

February 10, 2015

Driverless cars could clog up Britain’s roads because they take Highway Code too literally

The Highway Code may need to be re-written to stop driverless cars from bringing Britain’s city centres to a halt, an official review will say.

Passing distances between cyclists and pedestrians may have to be changed to prevent robot vehicles clogging up roads across the country.

Under the current Highway Code, drivers are expected to leave as much room as they would leave for a car when overtaking cyclists.

There are fears driverless cars could be left crawling behind cyclists for miles as they wait for enough space to overtake if the rules are not changed.

There are also suggestions that other parts of the Highway Code should be relaxed because driverless cars can pass other vehicles with greater precision.

Rules on tailgating may need to be dispensed with entirely to enable driverless cars to improve fuel efficiency.

The Telegraph understands that an official review into driverless cars, due to be published on Wednesday, will say that the Highway Code may need to be reviewed.

Graham Parkhurst, head of an academic research programme in Bristol and part of one of four official pilot programmes, said: “If everyone obeyed exactly what it said in the Highways Code, the roads would probably grind to a halt. If we ask driverless vehicles to respect every aspect of the Highway Code we will quickly discover that some things would be unworkable.

“Currently, people use experience, these things are negotiated. It may require us to look again at some of the recommendations.

“Another problem is in shared spaces where cars move slowly and allow pedestrians to thread their way through. The motorist imposes a little bit of presence in order to keep moving, there will be eye contact.”

The report is expected to say that the introduction of driverless cars would cut the cost of insurance as human error would be eliminated.

Mistakes by drivers account for nine in 10 road accidents, with premiums for 17 and 18-year-olds costing almost £2,000.

The report will distinguish between “highly automated cars”, in which motorists will be expected to take control at any time, and “fully” automated cars, where a licence will not be required.

In highly automated cars, drivers will still be prosecuted for using mobile phones while not wearing a seatbelt and eating at the wheel will be subject to on-the-spot penalties.

Driverless cars will start appearing on British roads later this year. The Government wants to change the rules to allow companies to start running trials of cars that do not need a human driver on UK streets, industry sources said.

The new generation of vehicles work by using GPS technology to locate the vehicle’s position on an electronic map.

Google earlier this year unveiled its first computerised self-driving car, which has no steering wheel or accelerator. The company will test prototypes in California this year and says the ultimate goal is for cars to “shoulder the entire burden of driving”.

However, motoring campaigners have raised safety concerns about the possibility of driverless vehicles appearing on British roads.

This article was written by Steven Swinford Deputy Poltical Editor from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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