Automated vehicle technology is just growing out of its infancy- and heading straight to public school. A number of studies have confirmed that certain “confident” drivers are already planning to bully the pants off the new kid on the playground. Because self-driving cars will be programmed to avoid accidents and stop in case of emergency, these madcap motorists have realized they will be able to take advantage of the situation by cutting in front, swerving around, and generally driving dangerously around automated cars.
This news may come as a shock to those who have been looking forward to safer roads in the not-so-distant future. But industry experts have already considered the possibility of increased danger due to cars operated recklessly by people when they are faced with self-driving vehicles on the road, says Business Insider. One study from Goodyear and the London School of Economics polled 12,000 subjects from around Europe, and found that most people were at least somewhat uncomfortable with riding in or being next to self-driving cars on the road. However, those respondents who were more “combative” drivers felt less concern about having autonomous cars around. In fact, one subject from the UK who expects self-driving cars to follow the law to the letter said, "We'll be overwhelmed by niceness. They're never going to do anything horrible to us. They're nice cars. They're not going to cut us up or get up our backsides." Another stated, "[The self-driving cars are] going to stop. […] They’re going to stop and you’re just going to nip round," reports Business Insider.
And what about pedestrians and cyclists- how will they react to autonomous cars? Roger Geffen, a member of the UK cycling association Cyclists’ Touring Club, warned The Guardian that "if pedestrians and cyclists can run or swerve out in front of cars knowing they will stop, some people will doubtless take advantage of this. That would infuriate drivers, leading to calls for jay-walking and on-road cycling to be banned altogether." If you believe the experts, it looks like the widespread adoption of self-driving cars is cursed from the get-go due to the social dilemma that makes us all human: even if we say we prefer safety, we really all just want to get ahead. This attitude could spell disaster for many, especially while there is a mix of driverless and driver-operated vehicles vying for first place on the road. Meanwhile, engineers must grapple with whether to program autonomous cars to prioritize the safety of passengers over pedestrians, or vice versa.
Still, it’s important to remember that these negative predictions are just speculation about an evolving technology that has yet to really make its mark. It will take some time for people to become accustomed to automated vehicles, and feel confident enough in the technology to turn over the wheel completely and allow the tech to do its job. We shouldn’t simply discount the possibility of having safe streets filled with fully-automated cars. But we should make an effort to avoid living up to the expectations of every sci-fi film ever to involve robots. Bullying them into submission tends to set the stage for a robot uprising.