car

Would you bully this nice little driverless car?

The news has been filled with bullying and cyberbullying stories for several decades. This election season has certainly brought up many examples too. But would anyone bully a car?

We have all heard of –  and probably experienced – “road rage.” That rage is directed at other drivers. What is the other car is driverless? No road rage, right?

Every car company is testing self-driving cars. They are working to make those driverless vehicles obey the rules of the road and avoid accidents. Sounds good.

But Swedish automaker Volvo has expressed concern that human drivers will try to bully driverless cars on the road. Your rage is with the car’s “brain” (AI) that actually goes 25 mph in a 25 mph zone. They are programmed to err on the side of caution. They follow rules. They don’t give or get road rage.

Volvo plans to use unmarked cars in upcoming London tests so that they don’t stand out from the crowd. Their concern is that more aggressive human drivers might find it tempting to bully driverless cars that behave mildly.

There has already been surveys to see how human drivers might behave toward self-driving cars in a survey of 12,000 respondents in 11 European countries. Knowing that an autonomous vehicle is going to stop if you cut it off may lead to aggressive drivers taking advantage and deliberately doing it.

Something lost in a driverless car (although it probably will still have a human passenger) is that wordless communication between drivers and pedestrians – that hand wave to go ahead and cross the street or pull out before me. Semcon, a technology company, came up with the idea of  giving self-driving cars a front-end display that allows them to “smile” at pedestrians as a way of saying “Go ahead. I’ll wait.”

Trusting that driverless cars will do the right thing is key to their acceptance, but it could also lead to problems on a hybrid roadway of driverless and human-driven vehicles.

I’ll trust the driverless car when all the other cars are also driverless. Let the robots take over the roads.

“A safe traffic environment is dependent on interactions between people. Today, eight out of ten people seek eye contact with the driver before they cross a busy road (Semcon/Inizio). But what happens when there is no longer a driver behind the wheel? We decided to find out how people react to self-driving cars.”
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