STATES CHRONICLE – When it comes to moral dilemmas autonomous cars may solve them mathematically. So, if in a car crash one such machine will need to pick between you and five pedestrians on the road, it will reportedly be programmed to save the pedestrians even if that means sacrificing your life.
The scenario is highly unlikely at this current state of AV development, but as more of these vehicles will hit the road the situation could become very real. And since vehicles lack a moral code, they’ll have to solve the puzzling moral dilemma as a human would.
And humans have spoken out. In a recent survey, more than 75 respondents said that they would rather see an autonomous car swerve and risk killing a passenger than kill 10 pedestrians. The rationale is quite simple: the car prevents more life losses than it can save.
But most people who solved this way the moral dilemma also said that if an AV was ever programmed to kill them they wouldn’t buy one, although they are ok with other people purchasing the car.
Respondents said that they would happily buy a car programmed to protect their lives rather than pedestrians’. Survey authors concluded that such mentality could undermine the AVs’ road safety benefits. Driverless cars are designed to make roads safer for every one, but at what costs? And will AV owners be ready to pay those costs with the risk of their own lives?
Another survey might have given an answer to that question. When respondents were asked whether they would buy cars that through government regulation were designed to kill them to safeguard more lives in case of a car crash, they said no. Some of them added that they would purchase unregulated cars.
About 90 percent of car crashes are caused by human error. But study authors claim that human decision may further obstruct road safety if people will reject the cars instructed to sacrifice their lives for the greater good.
Nevertheless, study authors acknowledged that a driverless vehicle will rarely have to handle such a black-and-white scenario. Car crashes are more nuanced and the vehicle’s algorithms will have to find a way to push the car into inflicting the least harm on both passengers and pedestrians.
In those cases, the cars may have to choose between the young and the old or between participants to the traffic that follow traffic rules and those who don’t.
An analysis of the surveys was published Thursday in the journal Science.
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