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Britain Will Soon Change Its Traffic Laws to Account for Robot Cars

What, no one else thinks of Putt Putt when we talk about self-driving vehicles?


Robots are really great at a lot of different tasks. What they’re not so good at yet, however, is critical thinking and interpreting rules less than literally. That’s why an official review of the British traffic laws will suggest that the entire system be rewritten so that the future self-driving cars we’ll all one day own won’t cost us hours of commute time while they painstakingly wait at every intersection for the optimal time to turn.

“If everyone obeyed exactly what it said in the Highways Code, the roads would probably grind to a halt,” Academic program head Graham Parkhurst told The Telegraph earlier this week, hereby confirming to all our inner confused 16-year-old, learner’s permit-wielding selves that the rules of the road are really more like guidelines anyway and our driving instructors really were being unreasonable. “If we ask driverless vehicles to respect every aspect of the Highway Code we will quickly discover that some things would be unworkable.”

In particular, a self-driving robot car might be too timid (well, not really because robots are still incapable of nuanced emotion, but you get what we mean) when dealing with aggressive human drivers on the road, or in areas where cars are expected to make way for crossing pedestrians. Changing the laws will provide more room for the robots who are programed to follow them to turn into intersections, parking spaces, and other areas that require a bit more logic and creative thinking the navigate through—which sounds terrifying at first, but keep in mind that some people actually expect driverless cars to make road conditions better—90% of accidents occur because of human error, and driverless cars will also save on energy costs and insurance premiums. So I guess the risks even out.

The full report will be published tomorrow, but as of now it seems that the ban on tailgating (also known as “drafting”—so like driving your car right behind another to save on fuel efficiency, not having a party at a football game) will be lifted so that driverless cars can collectively take up less road space in more compact platoons. Other parts of the rules will be relaxed to allow cars more precision to pass others on the road.

It’s unclear when Britain will be ready for driverless cars on its roads, but Google is currently testing its own version of the technology in California. But will they be able to travel through time and go to the moon and play mini golf? That’s what I want from my driverless cars. I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone wants.

(via IEEE Spectrum)

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