• Concept car moves out to way to let faster vehicles pass
  • Autonomous cars learning to act more like human drivers

Self-driving cars are becoming increasingly more like humans in their driving habits, while weeding out downsides like lane squatting and road rage.

An autonomous Audi A7 test car, dubbed Jack, gives trucks a wider berth when passing and edges toward the lane marking before signaling, mimicking the behavior of human drivers. What Jack didn’t do during a recent test on Germany’s Autobahn is get mad at aggressive drivers, a frequent risk especially on the speed limit-free stretches where vehicles regularly barrel down the road at more than 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour).

When a BMW X5 sport utility vehicle approached with its headlights flashing to demand passage during a trip between Ingolstadt and Nuremberg, the self-driving Audi politely made way. Then came an onrushing Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, and again the A7 sidled over to the slower right lane.

‘Cooperative Attitude’

“The cooperative attitude of Jack is especially apparent when other vehicles want to merge into the lane,” Audi, a unit of Volkswagen AG, said in a statement Friday. “The test car decides whether to accelerate or brake, depending on which is best suited to handling the traffic situation harmoniously for all road users.”

Making self-driving cars act more like humans is one of the key challenges for automakers as they seek to introduce autonomous vehicles that can handle a wide variety of driving situations. Germany’s highways can be unpredictable, with on-again, off-again speed limits and regular traffic jams. But they’re only one of the challenges to hands-free transport.

“It will be a while before these cars reach series maturity,” BMW Chief Executive Officer Harald Krueger said Thursday at the Munich-based company’s annual shareholders meeting. “Also because the proper legal framework for customers and manufacturers has not yet been decided.”

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