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Volvo’s driverless cars will be unmarked to prevent them being bullied

Volvo is gearing up for a driverless car trial involving 100 cars that will be unmarked due to fears that motorists will bully the vehicles.

The trial is set to get underway in 2018 in London, and will use versions of the Swedish company’s vehicles that look like normal Volvos.

The firm’s precautionary approach is the result of research which found that motorists were likely to overtake and cut off driverless cars.

Related: Who’s to blame when driverless cars get it wrong?

A London School of Economics study of 2,000 drivers over 11 countries revealed that “some see autonomous vehicles as a potential nuisance, while others see an opportunity to take advantage of, or ‘bully’, AVs.”

Erik Coelingh, Volvo’s senior technical leader, told The Observer: “From the outside you won’t see that it’s a self-driving car. From a purely scientific perspective 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.”

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.”

The trial will be the first to use volunteers from the public, who will sit in the driving seat of the 4x4s and activate the self-driving technology on relatively simple roads.

Earlier this year Volvo announced a joint project with Uber, where both companies would invest $300m (£250m) to create self-driving cars, with Volvo producing the vehicles and Uber using them as part of its service.

Volvo has already been testing autonomous cars in Gothenburg, Sweden, with Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO, saying: “Our vision is that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car.”

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Let us know what you think of Volvo’s plans in the comments.

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