Will autonomous cars be able to hold their own?

  • TECH
  • Thursday, 04 Aug 2016

Burning question: How will autonomous cars adjust to the "unwritten rules" of the road?

Or as the first truly self-driving vehicles become a consumer reality, will they be bullied into submission by other road users?

This question of driver attitudes and behaviour is at the heart of new research being conducted by the London School of Economics (LSE) in collaboration with tire-maker Goodyear.

Autonomous cars will be programmed to put safety above everything else – including right of way, whether a light is green, or whether the car behind is driving too close.

So will that mean that drivers of traditional cars will be able to force autonomous vehicles into submission when it comes to pulling over, giving up a parking space or waiting at a junction?

"Self-driving cars are being designed to predictably adhere to the rules of the road, but less predictable is how human drivers may interact with computer drivers," said Olivier Rousseau, vice president of Goodyear's consumer tire business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "Our latest collaboration with the LSE will explore this changing driving environment as autonomous vehicles and driver assist technologies continue to become more common."

According to research the LSE and Goodyear have already conducted on the subject, 88% of European drivers are firm in their belief that there are a series of "unwritten rules" when it comes to on-road behavior.

And seeing that by 2035 there are expected to be more than 21 million self-driving cars on the roads, Goodyear and the LSE have decided that now is the best time to conduct further research – in the form of surveys, think tanks and focus groups conducted across 11 European countries – into how these robot drivers will be greeted and treated.

"A key question for this year's research is how the unwritten rules and driver behavior that we employ will apply to self-driving cars, and to what extent self-driving cars will need to learn the common sense humans use to make everyday driving situations work," said Dr. Chris Tennant, who will lead the research project at the LSE. "The questions raised in our focus groups suggest that drivers' interactions with autonomous vehicles will develop as we are increasingly exposed to them."

The study's findings will be published in October. —  AFP Relaxnews

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