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Driverless car owners could need a NEW licence: Safety fears spark plans to introduce driving tests to ensure motorists pay attention rather than fall asleep or watch movies

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 16/04/2018 Amanda Cashmore
Driverless cars stock pic © Auto Express  

A new driving license system for owners of driverless cars should be considered because of safety fears, a study suggests.

Autonomous vehicle owners could soon be forced to pass a new driving test due to mounting concerns over the safety of the technology.

The study also suggests that new laws might have to be enforced so that the 'drivers' pay attention while the car is moving, instead of sleeping, reading or watching films.

Related: Uber settles with family of victim in self-driving car crash (Reuters)

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It comes after an American woman became the first pedestrian in the world to be killed by a driverless car. The Uber vehicle, a Volvo 4x4, struck Elaine Herzberg, 49, in Tempe, Arizona last month.

They study by Venturer consortium, which tested the technology in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, used driving simulators and on-road trials to outline the difficulties posed by the handover period.

The 'handover' is when the driver of an autonomous vehicle takes back control. It discovered that drivers took just under two seconds to regain control of the car when travelling at 50mph, according to The Times. Cars can travel about 45 metres in this time.

a bus that is parked on the side of a road: The study also suggests that new laws might have to be enforced so that the 'drivers' pay attention while the car is moving, instead of sleeping, reading or watching films (photograph of a driverless car being tested in Milton Keynes in 2016) © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The study also suggests that new laws might have to be enforced so that the 'drivers' pay attention while the car is moving, instead of sleeping, reading or watching films (photograph of a driverless car being tested in Milton Keynes in 2016) The consortium, which includes the insurance company Axa, the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol University, and BAE Systems, said the results raised concerns as to whether the manufacturer or the motorist would be accountable if a crash were to occur.

Researchers based at UWE's Bristol campus suggested that the handover period between car and human control was possibly the area of highest risk.

UWE's Bristol campus reportedly quoted the professor of human factors at Nottingham University, Sarah Sharples, who said: 'It may also be necessary for the roll-out of highly autonomous vehicles to be accompanied with the advice, or even law, that in some or all circumstances the driver must maintain attention to the driver situation and that other activities should be minimised or avoided.'

a police car parked on a city street: Under strict test conditions in Coventry last November, Jaguar, Land Rover, Ford and Tata Motors briefly tested 'driverless' car technology on public roads © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Under strict test conditions in Coventry last November, Jaguar, Land Rover, Ford and Tata Motors briefly tested 'driverless' car technology on public roads She also added that people should have 'an appropriate level of competence through a driving test' and that 'there is a need to consider whether any such driving test includes an understanding of how an autonomous vehicle will behave'.

Autonomous vehicles have undergone restricted tests in Milton Keynes and Greenwich - but have not yet encountered other cars on public highways.

Another project, GATEway, has operated automated pods along the pedestrian Thames Path in Greenwich, south-east London - also away from other cars.

Self-driving cars © Rex Features  

Under strict test conditions in Coventry last November, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Tata Motors briefly tested 'driverless' car technology on public roads.

The Government has commissioned a detailed three-year review of driving laws to ensure the legislation can cope with the new technology.

Key aspects will be adjusting the law to reflect the fact future vehicles may not have a 'driver' and also consider whether liability for some criminal offences involved should rest with the car's owner or its manufacturer.

The Treasury has said it hopes the driverless car industry 'will be worth £28 billion to the UK economy by 2035.'

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Related: Driverless cars – everything you need to know (Motoring Research)

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