First self-driving cars will be unmarked to protect them from road bullies

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The first autonomous vehicles to hit Britain's roads, as soon as 2018, will not feature any special markings in order to protect them from 'road bullies', a senior executive at Volvo has claimed.

Erik Coelingh made the statement to the Observer, adding that the Swedish carmaker fears that other motorists would drive erratically around the autonomous vehicles if they knew there was no human driver inside.

"From the outside you won't see that it's a self-driving car," the senior technical leader told the newspaper. "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."

This decision follows a survey of 12,000 drivers carried out by the London School of Economics, and published this month.

The majority said that 'angry' motorists would take advantage of the autonomous technology, which will automatically take preventative measures – such as braking – if the self-driving cars are cut up.

Chris Tennant, from the LSE, said: "Some people think, 'that car will slow down automatically so I'm going to nip in front'. It's easier when there's no human driver to flash his lights or wag his finger."

In 2018, Volvo hopes to launch a pilot scheme that will see 100 self-driving vehicles leased to London motorists. Coelingh also added that the manufacturer was currently in negotiations with TfL and Highways England to allow its vehicles to use self-driving mode on certain busy roads, including the M4 from Heathrow into the capital.