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Early Generation of Self-Driving Cars in Britain Will Be Unmarked

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author photo by Russ Heaps December 2016

When we think of self-driving cars, we don't usually think of bullying; at least I don't. But apparently there are those who do. According to several reports out of Great Britain, Volvo's first generation of self-driving cars in that country will be unmarked to conceal them from bullying drivers. Yep, that's right. Evidently Volvo worries there is at least a chance that some drivers will aggressively take on vehicles identified as self-driving to see how they'll respond.

According to The Guardian, the first 100 4x4 Volvos leased to everyday motorists in Great Britain will wear no badging identifying them as autonomous vehicles (AVs). Leasing is scheduled to begin in that country in 2018.

The Concern

A Volvo spokesperson admitted that they really don't know how other drivers will act around an AV, but the consensus is that the more aggressive motorists will challenge them. Because of the unknowns surrounding AVs, Volvo decided to err on the side of safety, hiding the AVs' identity.

Possible bad behavior in which aggressive drivers might engage includes pulling out in front of AVs or getting in front of them and slamming on the brakes, The Guardian reported.

The Research

Supporting Volvo's concern is a 2016 survey by the London School of Economics and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Called "Autonomous Vehicles – Negotiating a Place on the Road," it's a study measuring drivers' feelings about interacting with AVs on the road. Using a combination of focus groups and online surveys, more than 12,000 respondents spread across 11 European countries sounded off on AVs.

Although the survey found that many drivers believe AVs will inspire good behavior among most drivers, others see AVs as so predictably safe in their reaction to surrounding traffic that aggressive motorists will view them as easy targets to muscle out of the way.

What About the U.S.?

No word on how carmakers will treat the issue of identifying AVs in the U.S. market. Historically, early adopters in this country want the attention of being first with whatever the newest shiny thing is. Why stand in line for two days to buy the latest smartphone if you don't show it off a little?

Thinking that drivers in this country won't take advantage of an AV if they identify it as such is naive. Knowing that an AV is going to steadfastly follow the rules, others drivers will be tempted to take advantage. It's human nature.

What it means to you: Because most of us won't be among the first on our street with an AV, it won't make much difference how the first wave of self-driving cars is badged. They'll be easy enough to identify, though. The AV will be the car that actually stops at the intersection when the light turns from green to yellow.

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Used 2017 Volvo S90 T6 Momentum AWD
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Used 2017 Volvo XC60 AWD T5 Dynamic
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Early Generation of Self-Driving Cars in Britain Will Be Unmarked - Autotrader