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Fear of road bullies: Why Volvo will not mark driverless cars

The Volvo XC90 will be part of Volvo's autonomous trials. (Photo: Volvo)

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Angelo Rychel
Angelo Rychel
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100 self-driving SUVs will be indistinguishable from regular Volvos during a trial in London.

It is one of the great challenges that driverless mobility faces: how will conventional motorists react when they encounter autonomous vehicles on the road? Swedish OEM Volvo has now decided to bypass that situation. When a public trial of 100 self-driving SUVs starts in London in 2018, the vehicles will be deliberately unmarked – to avoid road bullying. Explaining the decision, Volvo’s senior technical leader Erik Coelingh 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,” reports The Guardian.

Coelingh’s assessment is backed by a recent London School of Economics study. The survey of 12,000 drivers in 11 countries found that aggressive drivers are likely to “see autonomous vehicles as easier agents to deal with on the road” than those with drivers at the wheel. One participant in the study was quoted saying on driverless cars: “I’ll be overtaking all the time because they’ll be sticking to the rules.”

The pilot will follow similar trials that Volvo will start in 2017 in the Swedish city of Gothenburg. According to The Guardian, Volvo is currently negotiating with British authorities to conduct the tests on busy London roads, such as the M4 which leads from Heathrow airport to the capital. Commuters who take part in the project will be asked to switch on self-driving mode in certain situations. The participants will then be monitored to see how their driving behavior changes over a period of time. Volvo have declared that they will take responsibility for every accident that occurs in self-driving mode. The company has also vowed that no person will be killed in Volvos sold onwards from 2020.

Read the full Guardian article here.

Read the full London School of Economics study here.

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