"Will a driverless car understand when I flash my lights to say thanks and will it wait for pedestrians to cross the road?" - fears over new technology revealed.
We all appreciate good driving manners, such as when a fellow motorist raises a hand to thank you for letting them through, or a flash of the hazard warning lights to signal appreciation for being allowed to filter into a queue.
But with driverless cars destined to arrive on our roads in the coming years, will they understand or misinterpret these unwritten codes of driving etiquette — and put road users at risk as a result?
That is a fear over driverless cars for seven in 10 British motorists, according to price comparison site uSwitch, which quizzed people on their attitudes.
Of the 2074 drivers polled, 70 per cent are concerned that driverless cars will take road rules so literally that good driving manners will go completely out of the window, and could mistake a gesture for something else.
More than half (51 per cent) said they thought a driverless car would misinterpret a driver flashing their headlights to say thank you, while a third (32 per cent) thought a self-driving car would fail to let another vehicle out of a side street.
Another 28 per cent also said a fully autonomous car wouldn’t be able to show consideration to pedestrians looking to cross the road.
In total, 75 per cent said driverless cars would kill off courteous British driving habits.
Others were fearful that the blend of computerised rules and human decision-making wouldn’t mix well when the first fully-driverless cars arrive in the UK, potentially causing accidents and delays on the road.
However, there’s plenty of reason to defend the switch over to autonomous vehicles and its opportunity to improve road safety — indicating that educating people about driverless cars may be a major hurdle for their adoption.
Recent figures suggest that 90 per cent of road traffic collisions are caused by human error, and many respondents hope that dangerous driving behaviour will be eradicated to offset the loss of good road manners.
And there were some hopes from motorists that machines might actually improve manners. Of the drivers surveyed, 59 per cent hoped tailgating would become a thing of the past once driverless cars were introduced, while two in five said they hoped it would spell the end of drivers cutting each other up and failing to indicate at junctions.
Despite the positive impact to remove poor driving habits from the road, just 59 per cent think their car insurance premiums will fall as a result of more driverless cars coming on to the road.
Rod Jones, insurance expert at uSwitch.com said: “The unwritten rules of the road are all part of the polite British driving experience but could be a huge blind spot for autonomous vehicles.
“Flashing your lights to let someone out of a junction may seem obvious, but these courteous gestures can vary from situation to situation and add the human touch to motoring.
“The Highway Code was created to promote safer driving, but over the years we have developed our own human driving code. It is clear that many drivers don’t expect driverless cars to understand our driving habits, which could, certainly to begin with, make it difficult for humans and robots to drive side by side. For British drivers to feel safe on the roads, they need to be confident about how a driverless car will react in any given situation.”
COURTEOUS HABITS DRIVERLESS CARS COULD MISUNDERSTAND
●Flashing your headlights — meaning thank you, you’re welcome or go ahead (51 per cent)
●Pulling over for emergency services (35 per cent)
●Letting other drivers out of side streets in busy traffic (32 per cent)
●Consideration to pedestrians on the pavement (28 per cent)
●Using the horn as a warning (26 per cent)
ANNOYING HABITS DRIVERLESS CARS COULD ERADICATE
●Tailgating (59 per cent)
●Cutting up other drivers (42 per cent)
●Not indicating before making a turn or changing lanes (41 per cent)
●Speeding (38 per cent)
●Queue jumping (20 per cent)