Volvo is making no bones over people's attitudes to self-driving cars. It knows that humans are mean and will almost certainly screw around with them when they eventually hit British roads. The company’s therefore announced that its first autonomous vehicles will be unmarked -- as in, they’ll look exactly the same as other Volvos of the same model -- when they start rolling out as part of a pilot scheme in 2018.
“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, the 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.”
Naaaaaaah. Okay, maybe. Definitely.
A recent LSE study explored this very issue, concluding:
This research identifies a number of deepseated reservations – to the willingness to give up control, to the reliability of AV technology and to AVs’ ability to integrate in the “social space” that is the road. It is necessary to understand these reservations, rather than just assume that the public needs more information if AVs are to negotiate a place for themselves on the road.
One of the participants in the research said, “I’ll be overtaking all the time because they’ll be sticking to the rules.” Dorks.
Coelingh also shed some light on London’s 2018 trial, revealing that participants will be asked enable self-driving mode on certain roads, including the M4 from Heathrow to London, to give the cars a proper taste of real traffic conditions.
“You have to deal with really strange things in real traffic,” he added. “That’s the basic challenge. It’s easy to make a car drive itself but it’s really difficult to make it safe. The real challenge is to make sure the car can deal with all things that can happen on the road – and that includes human behaviour.” [Guardian]