Will Self-Driving Cars Be Hiding Among Us?

While there are two sides to the self-driving cars debate, and many proposed solutions to concerns, self-driving cars are inevitable.
Written by Serena Aburahma
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
Several automakers and even rideshare companies have been trying to introduce fully
self-driving cars
to the market for years. For a while, it seemed that
most drivers
were on board with the idea, as it would mean an easier commute. 
Of course, with extra technology usually comes elevated MSRPs and
car insurance
premiums.
Cost aside, some drivers are understandably distrustful of fast metal machines that don't have attentive human pilots. According to
Technology Review
, it might be a big problem if these AVs are allowed to drive around unmarked. 

Should we be concerned about self-driving cars?

According to an MIT survey, an overwhelming majority of UK drivers (88%) think that self-driving cars should be labeled as such. When the issue was taken to a board of experts, only 44% agreed.
The argument isn't necessarily that AVs are inherently dangerous, but there seems to be a lack of public trust and understanding. 
As MIT points out, humans make a lot of driving decisions based on the actions of the drivers around them. A nod to acknowledge someone's right of way, letting someone in to merge on the highway, and so on.
A self-driving car can't acknowledge these gestures, which makes many drivers nervous. Additionally, many engineers have argued that there is something fundamentally wrong with hiding robots in plain sight. 
Some drivers might not feel safe taking the route of a self-driving car during a test run. We've already seen that self-driving cars have some obvious intelligence gaps, particularly regarding
police stops
.
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Should self-driving cars have special markings?

Some experts argue that labeling self-driving cars would only confuse other drivers. Even if a car has a 'self-driving sticker', the average driver probably doesn't understand the car's full range of capabilities or the responsibilities of its driver. 
Such a sticker could also be interpreted as taking away liability from the driver or the engineers who developed the technology.
Still, a car's hypothetical self-driving sticker doesn't have to be taken as a negative indicator. If these cars operate as expected, they could win over the trust of drivers who are on the fence about AVs. 
When evolving technology is received positively by the public, it makes it easier to implement more useful technology in the future.
MIT likens a self-driving label to the one you usually see on cars driven by student drivers. Human drivers would know to be patient and wary around self-driving cars, making everyone safer.

AVs might be coming sooner than you think

Tesla is close to perfecting a self-driving production car with the expanded capabilities of the Autopilot system. Full Self-Driving comes with several ultrasonic sensors and cameras, plus a sophisticated onboard computer system to make informed decisions. 
Of course, none of these components would stand out to the average driver. The self-driving program created by Mercedes-Benz, Drive Pilot, will also have its inner workings hidden behind the car's grille.
There are definitely good arguments from both sides about the labeling of self-driving cars. In the best scenario, it's a learning opportunity for other drivers and encourages them to drive safely around AVs.
On the other hand, it could also stir up more misgivings about new technology and reflect badly on AV innovators.

Will self-driving cars have new auto insurance policies?

Since there has yet to be a car with full self-driving capabilities, you can't buy these kinds of policies yet. However, given the unique concerns associated with AVs, it's only natural that the driver would want some liability coverage.
As soon as specialized AV policies are announced,
Jerry
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