Self-driving cars promise to bring increased safety, comfort and speed to our roads. Unfortunately, we can’t have nice things in this world without a bunch of jerks/BMW drivers ruining it for us.
The London School of Economics and Goodyear conducted a study into social attitudes to self-driving technology, and the results will only shock you if you haven’t driven in bad rush-hour traffic. Drivers who are more “combative” will welcome the adoption of self-driving technology, because they assume it will be easier to “bully” self-driving cars than actual humans.
Self-driving cars will be programmed to avoid accidents, just as they should be. So given the choice between driving timidly or causing an accident just to prove a point, the self-driving car will slam on the brakes every time. The more aggressive drivers in this survey said that they’d treat self-driving cars like “learner drivers” and “mug them right off”, which is a roundabout British way to describe driving like a jerk.
“I’ll be overtaking all the time because they’ll be sticking to the rules,” one respondent said. Another answered: “tTey are going to stop. So you’re going to mug them right off. They’re going to stop and you’re just going to nip round.”
The depressing headline masks a deeper problem with the adoption of self-driving cars: at present, efficient driving in traffic relies on human intuition to guess what other cars are going to do. It’s difficult to read the positioning of a car and work out if it’s going to let you in. Imagine the difficulty you have, as an experienced driver, going to a different culture in a rent-a-car and trying to learn the unspoken rules of the road. For a machine to try and do the same is even harder.