Autonomous car future sparks driving etiquette concerns

A new survey shows that seven in 10 British drivers fear driving courtesy will become a thing of the past

Britain is famous for being a rather polite nation, thank you very much! Entire books have been penned for the discussion and analysis of our very proper English manners, our unrivalled skill for small talk and our predilection for saying “sorry,” even when there really is no reason to apologise.
Now, according to a new survey, it would seem that manners are as equally important in the car as they are around the dinner table, as 75% of British motorists worry about the demise of common driving courtesy in the wake of a driverless motoring age.

Will British manners be lost when autonomous cars take over?

A fire engine attending an emergency © Copyright Gordon Hatton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Price comparison website uSwitch surveyed 2,045 drivers throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to find out the nation’s opinions on autonomous vehicles and how they expect the burgeoning technology to change British roads when it becomes the norm.
More than two-thirds (70%) of those asked fear driverless cars will follow the Highway Code completely by the book and will mistake small gestures of kindness, such as the flashing of headlights to say thank you, as something else entirely.
A total of 31% of motorists involved in the survey worry that driverless cars will put an end to flashing a fellow driver out of a side street during busy periods and 28% believe pedestrians will be overlooked, as machines take control ahead of more considerate humans.
The manufacturers of autonomous cars should also consider how the technology will work alongside emergency service vehicles, as 35% voiced concern regarding reactions to emergency vehicles.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as many also expect some negative driving traits to be eradicated with the advancement of driverless technology, including speeding, cutting up fellow motorists, failing to indicate and tailgating, with 59% expecting this latter, rather uncourteous driving habit, to become extinct.
According to recent figures, over 90% of road traffic collisions are the result of human error and many people believe that driverless cars will eventually help to reduce the amount of accidents witnessed on the road.
However, until the days when autonomous cars rule the road, both the old and the new will have to work harmoniously together.
Rod Jones, insurance expert at, said: “The unwritten rules of the road are all part of the polite British driving experience. It is clear that many drivers don’t expect driverless cars to understand our driving habits, which could, certainly to begin with, make it difficult for humans and robots to drive side by side.”
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