A driverless car manufacturer fears British road users may try to bully their vehicles or take advantage of their safety systems.
The Observer newspaper reports that a Volvo executive said its first self-driving cars to be tested on British roads will be left unmarked so that other drivers will not be tempted to “take them on”.
The first 100 self-driving 4x4 vehicles to be leased to motorists as part of a pilot scheme on busy main roads into London will look no different to other Volvos of the same model, said Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader at Volvo Cars. The scheme will start in 2018.
“From the outside you won’t see that it’s a self-driving car. 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,” Coelingh 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.”.
The House of Lords science and technology committee will begin to take evidence on driverless cars on 1 November, looking at issues such as who is legally accountable for them.
Volvo is in negotiations with Transport for London and Highways England to conduct the first pilot scheme on busy UK roads involving selected Volvo customers.
Following a similar scheme due to start next year in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, the 2018 London pilot will involve asking commuters to switch into self-driving mode on certain roads, such as the M4 from Heathrow to the capital, to see how the cars cope with real traffic conditions.