Penny Searles' blog - 22 November: Robo-bullying; The Problem with driverless cars
22 November 2016
Recently in the press there were reports that the first wave of driverless cars in the UK will be left unmarked out of fear that other road users will 'bully' them.
Would other road users really treat driverless cars differently? Our theory is almost certainly. Here is why: Take any sci-fi story featuring any form or robot or artificial intelligence you can think of, they are always treated differently from humans.
There is no actual evidence of how humans would really interact with driverless cars, although we like Volvo's senior technical lead, Erik Coelingh's idea of having some cars marked as autonomus to see what the difference, if any, would be. Until then we can only speculate, which is where our knowledge of sci-fi comes in handy!
Throughout literature and film, artificial intelligence is used purely as a resource to benefit humankind and no thought is given to the morality of their existence (until they revolt against us obviously!). Red Dwarf's Kryten is an example of this - it have no rights of its own. How about the 'Hosts' in Westworld? They suffer even worse conditions, essentially tools of a theme park for their human guest's entertainment.
We think that common courtesy is what will be the differing factor. The vast majority of drivers, treat other drivers with a basic level of human decency, would that be the same for non-human drivers?
For example, at a busy T-junction, would you be as inclined to let out a car if you knew it driverless? Would you be more inclined to aggressively overtake or 'cut-up' a driverless car? Or to extrapolate to an extreme, would you be more inclined to tailgate a driverless car?