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Fears that road etiquette could be lost with introduction of driverless cars

Published 10/09/2016

The interior of a driverless car
The interior of a driverless car

Three in four drivers are worried that the introduction of driverless cars will spell the end of road etiquette, research shows.

The survey by found that 75% of motorists fear the new technology will be incapable of good manners on the road, with some concerned this may even lead to accidents and delays.

Flashing lights, moving aside for emergency vehicles and letting other cars out of side streets, were named as the key gestures people feel will be forgotten as the new cars take to the roads.

More than a quarter of participants were also concerned that driverless cars will be less likely to be considerate to pedestrians or use the horn to alert other drivers to situations coming up ahead

But while research shows that 90% of traffic accidents are caused by human error, four in 10 were also concerned that car insurance premiums will rise if driverless cars become more common in the UK.

This, many of them said, is because informal etiquette that makes roads safer is an "unwritten code" ingrained in the minds of human drivers, but may be misinterpreted by autonomous cars.

In light of these concerns, the Government is looking at modernising the Highway Code to bring it in line with modern technology and driving habits.

Rod Jones, insurance expert at said: "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."

However, while seven in 10 said they were worried that the combination of human drivers and autonomous driving systems on the road together may initially lead to delays and accidents, some are hopeful that it will also wipe out the bad behaviour of some road users.

Just under 60% of those surveyed hoped that the new technology will eradicate tailgating, while just over 40% said it will put an end to to drivers' habits of not indicating and cutting up other drivers.

Just over a third (38%) predicted that speeding will become a thing of the past and a fifth said it will stop queue jumping.

When asked about which Highway Code rules most needed updating, 42% said the requirement for drivers to always have both hands on the steering wheel is less important with modern cruise control and automatic parking technology.

A third of people also said that advanced sat-navs in most cars means rules around distractions such as reading maps or playing loud music while driving need to be re-evaluated .

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From Belfast Telegraph