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Britain's first autonomous test cars will be unmarked to avoid jerks

Drivers can't be overly aggressive cretins if they can't tell which cars are self-driving.

Remove the stickers, and most people will see an ordinary Volvo.


Would you be more willing to cut off a self-driving car if you knew it would let you through? That's the reason why Volvo's first autonomous tests in Britain will take place using unmarked vehicles.

When it launches a program that puts 100 self-driving cars in the hands of ordinary British citizens, the autonomous vehicles will look no different than any other Volvo on the road, The Guardian reports. That's by design, as it will allow the vehicles to blend into traffic, preventing more aggressive drivers from constantly taking advantage of the self-drivers.

"From the outside you won't see that it's a self-driving car," said Erik Coelingh, a senior technical leader for Volvo, in an interview with The Guardian. "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."

Volvo's program won't start until 2018, but the mistreatment of autonomous cars is definitely a concern. A recent study from the London School of Economics showed that more aggressive drivers look forward to bullying self-driving cars out of their way, as the cars will be programmed to put safety first. By hiding them in plain sight, drivers should act no differently than usual, which allows the autonomous vehicles to drive without worry.

This program isn't going to involve fully autonomous vehicles. Rather, members of the public will be asked to use self-driving technology on certain motorways in specific parts of the UK. The country's government is still working to develop regulations regarding liability in crashes and the general ins and outs of testing self-driving cars on public roads.