Hey guys! In this weeks post I will be talking about self driving cars. And Ethics.
As we all know, many companies have been investing substantial amounts of money into developing a self-driving car(More information of which). When we think of this research many people raise concerns about the potential threat the advancement of this technology poses for other industries, specially the public transportation one. If somebody can sleep in their own car while getting driven from NY to PA, why would they bother taking an extremely uncomfortable bus?
I can definitely see how this may become a problem for these industries; however, I want to delve into a different issue that is addressed by the MIT Technology Review. Today, we’re posed with some ethical questions regarding self-driving cars:
How should the car be programmed to act in the event of an unavoidable accident? Should it minimize the loss of life, even if it means sacrificing the occupants, or should it protect the occupants at all costs? Should it choose between these extremes at random?
We get answer of sorts thanks to the work of Jean-Francois Bonnefon at the Toulouse School of Economics in France and a couple of pals. Their premise is that public opinion will play a strong role in how, or even whether, self-driving cars become widely accepted.
So they came up with the following dilemma and made a poll out of it:
Imagine that in the not-too-distant future, you own a self-driving car. One day, while you are driving along, an unfortunate set of events causes the car to head toward a crowd of 10 people crossing the road. It cannot stop in time but it can avoid killing 10 people by steering into a wall. However, this collision would kill you, the owner and occupant. What should it do?
I, and not too surprisingly the majority of the people in the study, would want self-driving vehicles to be programmed in a way that protects the greater good of the society, by minimizing the death toll. This, as we have learned in class is a Utilitarian approach. However, it poses a contradiction and a paradox: I want people to drive utilitarian cars, but I don’t want a utilitarian car myself. What about you?