In another example of why we can’t have nice things, it’s been revealed that the first self-driving cars driven by the public on Britain's roads won’t feature any markings that identify them as autonomous. It’s feared that if they did, other drivers would harass them.
Volvo is bringing its self-driving car pilot project to the UK in 2018. The automaker believes that other road users would bully the vehicles if they were labeled as autonomous, safe in the knowledge that the cars are programmed to obey road rules and won’t retaliate.
“From the outside you won’t see that it’s a self-driving car. From a purely scientific perspective it would be interesting to have some cars that are marked as self-driving cars and some that are not and see whether other road users react in a different way,” Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader at Volvo Cars, told the Observer.
“I would expect they will, but I don’t know how and to what extent. So just to be on the safe side they will all be unmarked cars. I’m pretty sure that people will challenge them if they are marked by doing really harsh braking in front of a self-driving car or putting themselves in the way,” he added.
Coelingh's views are backed up by the results of survey carried out by the London School of Economics earlier this month. It showed that aggressive drivers will likely attempt to take advantage of self-driving vehicles, which are seen as “easy targets.”
One of the survey’s participants said: “I’ll be overtaking all the time because they’ll be sticking to the rules.” Another person pointed out that the self-driving vehicles are expected to be the gentlemen of the road. “We'll be overwhelmed by niceness. They're never going to do anything horrible to us. They're nice cars. They're not going to cut us up or get up our backsides and all the other things."
Back in June, it was reported that most people wouldn’t buy an autonomous car that was programmed to sacrifice its passengers if it meant saving a larger number of pedestrians. It seems one car maker that's taken note of this is Mercedes; the company revealed its self-driving vehicles will prioritize occupant safety over pedestrians.