In Brief

Self-driving cars will be unmarked to hide from 'bullies'

Volvo to hide test vehicles when pilot scheme starts on London's roads in 2018

Volvo self driving cars

Britain's first self-driving cars will be hidden so other road users will not challenge them, Volvo has revealed.  

The Swedish manufacturer is planning to test driverless cars in London in 2018, leasing 100 XC-90 SUVs to members of the public, who'll be allowed to use their autonomous feature on a selection of roads and routes. However, the cars will be completely unmarked so other drivers cannot identify and "bully" the cars, which are programmed to yield to the highway code. 

Erik Coelingh, Volvo's senior technical leader, told the Observer: "From the outside you won’t see that it's a self-driving car."

It would be "interesting to have some cars that are marked as self-driving cars and some that are not and see whether other road users react in a different way", he continued, adding: "I would expect they will… I'm pretty sure that people will challenge them if they are marked by doing really harsh braking in front of a self-driving car or putting themselves in the way."

His comments reinforce a survey of motorists this month that said many drivers see autonomous cars as easy prey and are more likely to overtake and cut off self-driving vehicles. 

The London School of Economics questioned 12,000 drivers in 11 countries about self-driving cars and found that more "combative" motorists will try to "mug off" autonomous cars. 

Volvo has already begun testing self-driving vehicles on public roads in Sweden and is in talks with Transport for London and Highways England to conduct a pilot scheme in the UK. 

Earlier this year, the company revealed a £250m partnership with ride-hailing app Uber to develop and produce self-driving cars, which will be bought and operated by the taxi company in the future. 

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