Autonomous cars to be unmarked to prevent harassment

Volvo’s driverless cars will be unmarked in 2018 trial to avoid ‘bullying’

 

A collection of driverless cars developed by Volvo will be trialled incognito on London roads to avoid attracting aggressive and challenging behaviour from fellow road users.

The Swedish auto manufacturer has taken the decision to disguise its latest autonomous vehicles (AVs) when they trial the technology in London in 2018.

Volvo's driverless cars will be unmarked in 2018 trial to avoid bullying

Volvo dealership © Copyright Thomas Nugent and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

 

The decision seems to buck the trend followed by other developers across the globe; namely, to use custom-built cars that are quite obviously something different from the norm.

The prototype cars that are to be tested by Volvo in 2018 will look no different to the average Volvo seen on the roads today.

The reason for going incognito lies in a recent study carried out by the London School of Economics, which was conducted to discover current attitudes towards AVs and their technology.

The researchers found that while some motorists saw driverless cars as a “potential nuisance,” others saw them as a soft touch to be “take[n] advantage of.”

According to the study, motorists are more likely to cut up or perform an overtaking manoeuvre on a driverless car than a normal car. This is because AVs are designed to follow the rules of the road rigorously, without reacting to poor or aggressive drivers, other than to get out of their way.

Erik Coelingh, the senior technical leader at Volvo, thinks some road users will see driverless cars as a “challenge” to be experimented on.

He said: “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.”

It is therefore to stop ‘bullying’ that the trial vehicles will be indistinguishable from the rest. However, Mr Coelingh did admit that releasing a mixture of marked and unmarked AVs onto the streets of London would be interesting “from a purely scientific perspective.”

The 2018 trial forms part of Volvo’s commitment to achieving zero fatalities or serious injuries in its vehicles by 2020; an ambition the Swedish company feels goes hand-in-hand with the advancement of driverless technology.

The unmarked cars will be tested on London’s roads by a group of volunteers from the general public, who will effectively be loaned the car for the duration of the trial.

The volunteers will be asked to take their place in the driving seat, while the driverless technology is activated, and to direct the cars to London’s quieter streets.

 

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