Driving test shake-up introduces sat nav into exam

Gerard Tubb, North of England Correspondent

New drivers will have to prove they can operate modern technology, in what could be the last changes to the driving test before the arrival of semi-autonomous cars.

From December examiners will test students to see if they can follow instructions from satellite navigation systems for up to 20 minutes.

The "independent driving" segment of the test will be doubled from its current 10 minutes and drivers will have to demonstrate they can operate equipment, such as a heated rear window, while the car is moving.

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Meanwhile new manoeuvres will be introduced, including driving into and out of a parking space, while the old requirement to reverse around a corner will be scrapped.

Junior transport minister Andrew Jones said the changes are designed to improve safety now that half of motorists use satellite navigation.

He said: "Technology is a great facilitator, it has helped us improve our road safety, but the question is, how can we maximise that?"

The changes to the test come as the Government is actively promoting the development of driverless cars in the UK, with some "hands off" vehicles expected to be introduced as soon as next year.

Changes are planned to the Highway Code to allow fully autonomous cars on the roads by 2021.

Experts say driver training will have to change again to cope with taking control of a semi-autonomous car in an emergency.

"How are you going to manage that transition from one mode to the other?" asked Paul Knight of Manchester law firm Mills and Reeve.

"It's more than just physical, you actually need to switch on mentally as well," he said.

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