Will Overly Polite Self-Driving Cars Brake for Jerks?
Millard-Ball, who teaches environmental studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz, modeled what he calls crosswalk chicken, in which a brazen pedestrian crosses in front of oncoming cars, daring them to run him over. Of course, in today’s world, such effrontery is dangerous because drivers may be inattentive, particularly when operating under the expectation that pedestrians will not act like total jerks.
But in the right context, say that of a college town—where students can be at once inattentive, inebriated, and jerks—drivers “adjust to the unpredictability of pedestrians and modify their speed and behavior accordingly,” Millard-Ball observes.
The game of chicken was originally conceived as a race between two cars hurtling toward each other along a single lane: the first driver to swerve loses. In the Cold War era, game theorists aimed to apply its lessons to the problem of nuclear deterrence. Key to it all was convincing an enemy country that your country would retaliate to certain heinous provocations even though this would bring about nuclear Armageddon.