The government has today published a code of practice for testing self-driving cars in Britain, to make sure that nobody gets run over by robots.
As you might expect, the new rules are pretty conservative and predictable. According to Engadget they insist that autonomous vehicles still have someone sat in the driving seat, able to take control manually in an emergency. To ensure they're alert, despite not having to steer, the 'driver' will still have to pay attention, and will be subject to the same "no phones" rule as normal cars. These drivers will also have to have a full driving licence too - as well as training on how to use the autonomous vehicle's specialist systems should they need to.
The rules also suggest (and we think that's "suggest" in the "insist" sense) that companies testing the vehicles liaise with local emergency services before setting off on any roads, and that all self-driving cars have a "black box" style recorder, which is something that they will all almost certainly have already anyway.
The publication perhaps comes at the right time: while driverless car trials have been taking place in a handful of places around the UK since the start of the year, apparently none have ventured out on to public roads yet (instead sticking to private land).
We're already looking forward to Gizmodo in 100 years time looking back on this document insisting on active drivers with the same incredulity we look back on the insistence in the 19th century that cars must have a guy holding a red flag walking in front to alert everyone. [Engadget]