Solve for the equilibrium are British people really like this?

by on October 30, 2016 at 2:02 am in Law, Sports, Web/Tech | Permalink

The first self-driving cars to be operated by ordinary British drivers will be left deliberately unmarked so that other drivers will not be tempted to “take them on”, a senior car industry executive has revealed.

One of the biggest fears of an ambitious project to lease the first autonomous vehicles to everyday motorists is that other road users might slam on their brakes or drive erratically in order to force the driverless cars into submission, he said.

This is why the first 100 self-driving 4×4 vehicles to be leased to motorists as part of a pilot scheme on busy main roads into London will look no different than other Volvos of the same model, said Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader at Volvo Cars. The scheme will start in 2018.

Americans wouldn’t talk this way:

One driver interviewed for the survey said: “I’ll be overtaking all the time because they’ll be sticking to the rules.”

Another said: “They are going to stop. So you’re going to mug them right off. They’re going to stop and you’re just going to nip around.”

Here is more, via Michelle Dawson.

Addendum: Via Anecdotal, here is an Australian perspective:

Well, I am here to tell you: that’s OK. We’ve all had it drummed into us from infancy that humans bullying cars = bad.

But we can’t let our bourgeois notions of propriety in auto-human interactions stop us from letting out our inner Johnny from Karate Kid.

We must, rather, get on with the vital and necessary work of bullying, haranguing and insulting these contraptions every chance we get. Because I cannot stress this enough: these cars must not be allowed to develop self-esteem.

From another corner of the world, I can tell you that Kiwis do not drive as politely as they talk.

1 Steve Sailer October 30, 2016 at 2:17 am

That was my impression driving around the Cotswolds: all that famous English politeness you see as they queue up at bus stops disappears when the English get behind the wheel.

2 David October 30, 2016 at 4:22 am

The people at bus stops may be different to the people that drive.

3 tjamesjones October 31, 2016 at 3:44 am

I think you’re wrong here Steve. Driving in England is vastly nicer (less aggressive) than in the US or Oz, and I’ve done quite a lot in all 3.

4 prior_test2 October 30, 2016 at 2:21 am

‘Americans wouldn’t talk this way’

Mainly because Americans aren’t British, and don’t use British English. One can even venture to guess that Bloomberg terminals just might have functions designed for people who don’t talk like Americans – after all, it is just possible that when an American talks about the pound sign (#) a British person might be referring to £. As a matter of fact, it is quite an interesting subject, if one enjoys keyboard mapping – Of course, in the twitterverse where so many people can be found, # is how to make a hash of things, assuming that is the correct technical usage (ignoring twitter as completely as possible, I’ll admit to being at a slight disadvantage when it comes to accurately describing its terminology or how the service works, apart from the fact that a lot of tweets seem to twit – or possibly vice versa).

And hard as this might be to grasp, those Volvos will also be specially designed in ways which Americans would never drive either – such as the driver not being in the customary American position, with all of those cars driving on roads that do not follow the Napoleonic tradition. The British will never be ruled by a bunch of Continental rule makers, after all.

5 Meets October 30, 2016 at 8:41 am

Wish I could put you on ignore

6 Alain October 30, 2016 at 1:28 pm


7 Steve Sailer October 30, 2016 at 2:22 am

One theory I can recall reading several decades ago was that politeness while driving correlates with how high a percentage of the population owns a car. Thus, Southern California had polite drivers (in 1978 or whenever I read this) because everybody drove. In contrast, the argument went, the English don’t a high rate of car ownership so they feel like entitled aristocrats when they get behind the wheel and drive in a cavalier fashion.

8 Urso October 30, 2016 at 10:59 am

Seems like a “just so” story to me, but I do appreciate the cavalier pun.

9 Kris October 30, 2016 at 12:26 pm


In India, most people don’t want to drive themselves but prefer to be driven by someone else. The result is that the the volume of cars in our bigger cities is very high, but most drivers are “professionals” who are out to make as much money ferrying passengers as possible, traffic rules and politeness be damned. The non-professional drivers all behave like entitled brats. The result is that India has an extremely aggressive driving culture; so people prefer to drive themselves even less, creating a vicious circle.

10 Mark Thorson October 30, 2016 at 11:12 pm

The future is self-driving cars bullying other self-driving cars. This is an opportunity for English and Italian cars to make a comeback, but Indian cars would have the clear advantage. And someday all driving will be like driving in India today.

11 Dan Lucraft October 30, 2016 at 2:24 am

I’m sure there will be some twats, but in general, no.

12 Thiago Ribeiro October 30, 2016 at 2:42 am

This is the very reason it is called Perfidious Albion. My forefathers left and never looked back.

13 Hoover October 30, 2016 at 4:28 am

We were called perfidious Albion before cars were invented.

14 Thiago Ribeiro October 30, 2016 at 4:38 am

I mean, this kind of behavior is the reason it is called Perfidious Albion. Make no mistake, they are the same behind the wheel they are elsewhere.

15 Hoover October 30, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Behind the wheel, we’re relatively civil and rule-following. I’m sure there are countries where they drive more politely and display less perfidy (perhaps in Scandinavia), but on balance we’re pretty obedient. Naturally, the EU studies this in great depth, and produces reports called SARTRE in which they compare motorists in EU countries.

16 Thiago Ribeiro October 30, 2016 at 1:39 pm

I doubt it. The Englishman is cowardly and savage in all his endeavors.

17 whahae October 30, 2016 at 4:47 am

The eternal Anglo strikes again.

18 Thiago Ribeiro October 30, 2016 at 6:41 am

Exactly, like an animal, cunning but savage.

19 Andrew M October 30, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Is it just the soil of the land that makes it perfidious, or is it the people? If the latter then catching a boat across the Atlantic with a whole bunch of other perfidious people isn’t going to change anything.

20 Thiago Ribeiro October 30, 2016 at 1:37 pm

The non-perfidious people eventually Brexit and go live among decent people. My forefathers did and never look back.

21 Lawrence Gough November 8, 2016 at 2:52 pm

and everyone is so happy, you too. It’s called a win win.

22 Adrian Ratnpala October 30, 2016 at 2:55 am

But wouldn’t other drivers victimise these vehicles anyway, simply because they are Volvos?

23 Matthew Moore October 30, 2016 at 7:31 am

You win this thread

24 Asher October 30, 2016 at 3:28 am

It is obvious that we just have to make “gaming an autonomous vehicle” a new moving violation. It doesn’t have to be a doomsday violation. An $80 fine and one or two points would probably be enough to keep other motorists and also pedestrians and cyclists from engaging in the most egregious instances of exploitation.

25 Confused October 30, 2016 at 5:20 am

And it will probably all be on video, so quite easy to convict.

I agree that after getting charged 80 Pounds 2 or 3 times, taunting autonomous vehicles will seem like an expensive way to have very little fun

26 M October 30, 2016 at 4:51 am

You’d probably want to test what British drivers are like with objective international ranks of road safety, road rage rather than anecdote.

At a quick glance, all I find is that road fatalities relative to distance is low in Britain (in common with Ireland and the Nordics -Sweden, Denmark, Norway).

27 M October 30, 2016 at 4:55 am
28 Pshrnk October 30, 2016 at 10:31 am

Those survey results are because Brits are relatively honest about it.

29 M October 30, 2016 at 11:37 am

Could be. I was sort of entertaining the notions that British drivers had a tendency to generally be a bit Alan Partridge – safe drivers and rule abiding to a fault, but a bit irritatingly pompous and confrontational with it.

30 Sam Taylor October 30, 2016 at 5:33 am

If you want to see the real difference between British and American culture, I suggest contrasting crowd behaviour at an American football game with that at an English lower league football game. In the states when a player goes down injured they very silence and respect from both sides of the crowd (at least in my experience when attending college games). In the UK when a player goes down injured they get a barrage of the very worst abuse from opposition fans.

Frankly I prefer our way. You hear much wittier chants.

31 Thiago Ribeiro October 30, 2016 at 6:42 am

Nothing wrong with it. Soccer is war by other means.

32 Alan October 30, 2016 at 8:33 am

99+% are fake injuries, therefore they all get scorn.

33 Riz October 30, 2016 at 5:45 am

London is the true test for the UK. despite anecdotal evidence regarding the Cotswolds, driving etiquette improves the more you head to the countryside, and the more you migrate away from London. I have lived on the edges of London for 20 odd years and am reluctant to drive through the city when possible. the tricky road system combined with high driver density, few places to stop for a reprieve and general eagerness of drivers (many are couriers and aggressive ’white van men’) makes it a highly competitive driving arena where you do what you can to get ahead. so, no, British people are not ‘like that’ generally speaking, but it’ will be more the case in the driving cauldron that is London.

34 Pshrnk October 30, 2016 at 10:34 am

Why drive in London? If you can’t afford a driver, either you can’t afford to live their or you can “Mind the gap”

35 Tim Worstall October 30, 2016 at 6:18 am

“are British people really like this?”

No. London is different.

We’re not going to think that NYC and Boonietown AK driving habits are similar, are we?

36 Art Deco October 30, 2016 at 9:47 am

True New Yawkers don’t drive. And don’t do theyah own laundry.

37 Peter Akuleyev October 30, 2016 at 6:30 am

I was just in the UK last week, and my impression is that UK drivers are more courteous and polite than German drivers, and far better than Americans. Granted, I grew up in Boston.

38 Alan October 30, 2016 at 8:35 am

Doesn’t “I grew up in Boston” disqualify you from all driving skill and etiquette discussions?

39 rayward October 30, 2016 at 6:46 am

Cars are an inefficient way to move people from place to place, cars are expensive, cars are dangerous, cars make cities much less appealing places to live, and cars are destroying the environment. So why cars? Maybe for the same reason as football: to blow off a little steam. If that’s true, then people will likely be much more hostile when autonomous vehicles (a/k/a transit) replace cars. I’ve driven the expressway and I’ve been to a few football games, and the steam coming from both is apparent. Where will people go, what will people do, to blow off a little steam? After autonomous vehicles, will everyone become Donald Trump?

40 Kris October 30, 2016 at 12:30 pm

I suspect we’ll have private cars unless and until someone invents private teleportation devices. Mass public transport doesn’t cut it for everyone, as it forces people to synchronize their schedules with others; there will always be people who want to commute at different times than others.

41 freethinker October 30, 2016 at 6:57 am

I lived in different parts of for several months and I agree with Riz that drivers are more aggressive in London. Of course, compared to the behavior of drivers anywhere in India, London drivers are a million times more polite!

42 Luis Enrique October 30, 2016 at 7:54 am

put income per capita on the x-axis and scary driving behaviour on the y-axis, which countries are the outliers?

Italy? lunatics.

personally I think Brits driving etiquette is above OECD average and the yobs quoted in the article would be the recipients of pursed lipped stares of disapproval.

43 gab October 31, 2016 at 12:31 pm

I don’t think Italian drivers are lunatics. They simply have a different driving method than the US and other continental countries. And that method differs greatly between city driving and autostrade and other out of the city driving techniques. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not that difficult.

44 Doug October 30, 2016 at 8:19 am

One of the delights of the Brits is their instinctual mocking and disrespect for any authority and most pomposity. A fine and wonderful thing.

So driverless cars – what, we are all meant to bow down to this mighty tech. ’tis nowt but a fandangle. If the folks who write the algorithms haven’t taken human behaviour into account…

45 Donald Pretari October 30, 2016 at 8:34 am

“Meanwhile, Mercedes has made it clear that if a situation arises where a car has to choose between saving the lives of its occupants or those of bystanders, it will save the occupants.”

That means it will drive on the sidewalk to save the occupants.

46 Alan October 30, 2016 at 8:37 am

Would you?

47 Max Schwing October 30, 2016 at 9:34 am

Why should it? There are more parameters than just save occupants at all costs. The difference will be that a computer can juggle all those within a micro second while we need seconds. The end result might be the optimal outcome!

48 Donald Pretari October 30, 2016 at 1:19 pm

I think it’s pretty clear that where you or I might sacrifice ourselves to avoid a line of children, the car will plow on through.

49 uair01 October 30, 2016 at 11:48 am

Real-life trolley problems 🙂

50 Max Schwing October 30, 2016 at 9:32 am

Tyler, they might not talk that way but they do drive that way. Even without self-driving cars, I found Americans do be very asocial. Why else should there be that many signs telling you to drive on the right lane of the road.

I also found truck drivers to be thoughtless of others blocking the left lane for minutes causing a huge traffic jam.

So albeit Americans don’t talk that way they sure act like that. They are more like French in that regard. And even in Germany I must say we are becoming more rude and less social. Slow drivers tend to block the left lane more often than a decade ago.

But then to game machines has always been a sport for humans so why should it change with autonomous cars?

51 daguix October 30, 2016 at 9:37 am

Even if there is someone in the car or not, if you bully an autonomous car, you bully someone at least indirectly. It is like damaging urban furniture…

52 Don October 30, 2016 at 11:30 am

Very bad hombres and nasty ladies! Better not let them in this country.

53 Pete in NZ October 30, 2016 at 1:11 pm

I can confirm that Kiwis (NZers) are appalling drivers

54 Dan Lavatan-Jeltz October 30, 2016 at 3:54 pm

I disagree. First of all, most of the drivers are tourists since there are no natives. Second, there aren’t all that many cars, the bigger problem is the roads aren’t very useful, particularly on the south island since they don’t have the budget to make them perfectly flat and straight so you can go 200MPH like in the US. It is more a man vs nature thing. They do stupid things like use traffic circles, but since there is no reason to be in a city this isn’t that big a deal either.

55 Alain October 30, 2016 at 1:32 pm

The cars have complete telemetry of any situation, as well as video, and recognition of license plates to make submission of complaints trivial.

I suspect that driving outside of the law to harass autonomous vehicles will be short lived.

56 Donald Pretari October 30, 2016 at 2:55 pm

BTW, based upon what I’ve observed, there’s no way Americans are going to buy a car that can’t execute on demand an illegal u-turn.

57 ChrisA October 30, 2016 at 3:23 pm

I think Tyler is demonstrating his limited social circles when he claims Americans would not talk that way.

58 jorod October 30, 2016 at 3:44 pm

No one will buy them.. They’ll be taxis or rental cars.

59 Thiago Ribeiro October 30, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Stop being stupid! Karate Kid was the real villain of Karate Kid!
We’ve know this in Brazil for decades. You can’t fool us. We rooted for Johnny the whole movie. And kikcking someone’s hair is not polite!

60 Alan October 30, 2016 at 5:18 pm

I find driving in urban areas to be a horrible combination of boredom and anxiety. I’ll buy an autonomous car as soon as they are available here.

61 Unanimous October 30, 2016 at 5:24 pm

If there are mostly ordinary people in the self driving cars, then the bullying will not be hugely more than now. Mostly it would be a case of driver bullying people in the other car, similar to road rage now, but making use of the different behaviour in the self driving car.

If the self driving cars are empty, then there’s a new and more interesting game available for hoons. But I imagine the law will carch up with that pretty quick.

As people have pointed out, full-on bullying is a potential problem for trials more than full deployment. It will be easily sorted out via cars gathering evidence and law changes. Marginal bullying, or just impoliteness, might be different particularly for empty self driving cars.

62 Londoner November 1, 2016 at 7:49 am

Living in London I can tell you British BLACK CAB drivers would definitely act like that with driverless cars…
I’ve seen how they act when they get close to Uber cars and it’s not pretty…

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