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Ethical Question: Should a Self-Driving Car Kill You to Save Other People?


(Photo: Roman Boed)

This is absolutely fascinating!

The classical ethical dilemma goes something like this:

A train is about to crash into a bus full of people. If you do nothing, it will do so and kill them. If you switch the tracks, the train will instead hit and kill only one person. Do you switch the tracks?

Now let's update that dilemma and hand it over to a robot. Olivia Goldhill writes at Quartz:

Imagine you’re in a self-driving car, heading towards a collision with a group of pedestrians. The only other option is to drive off a cliff. What should the car do?

If you're the passenger, then you have a lot at stake in the decision that your robotic car makes. What should you do? I'm not sure, but psychological researchers led by Jean-François Bonnefon from the Toulouse School of Economics surveyed 900 people to ask them what they thought the car should do:

They found that 75% of people thought the car should always swerve and kill the passenger, even to save just one pedestrian.

That's very noble of them. But according to Helen Frowe, a psychology professor at Stockholm University, it can get more complicated:

For example, a self-driving car could contain four passengers, or perhaps two children in the backseat. How does the moral calculus change?

If the car’s passengers are all adults, Frowe believes that they should die to avoid hitting one pedestrian, because the adults have chosen to be in the car and so have more moral responsibility.

Although Frowe believes that children are not morally responsible, she still argues that it’s not morally permissible to kill one person in order to save the lives of two children.

-via Marilyn Bellamy

Should a car driving you alone sacrifice you to save two adult strangers?





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I don't know how old you actually are. But i am confident that within the next 50 years you may be confronted with a situation where you may only select to use a self drivng car or no car at all.
Self dirving subways are already around. The step to self driving cars may not be so far away.
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Thanks for the link... A funny and inspiring approach to the problem.

And additionally i didn't even consider the implementaiton of a car control system capable of solving the question. When cnsidering on how few parameters automation is usually based, it would not even consider any implementation of even a rudimentary "trolley problem solution circuit"...
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The "smart cars" should preserve the life of it's passengers then itself. There should be no morality beyond that.
(serious part of this post ends here)

If there are no passengers and no witnesses then it can proceed on its killing spree!
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Forget self-driving: I'd be happy with a car that can change its own spark plugs, because some idiot engineer at Ford decided it would be cute to put one of my Escort's spark plugs (and there are only 4 of them!) right under the alternator, so you can't get to that one plug without first removing the alternator, the belt, the brackets, and the electrical plugs that go into the alternator. Plus... that spark plug is accessed through a narrow trench of sharp metal corners from the head cover, so no matter what you do, you WILL cut your knuckles on those corners and bleed all over the engine bay.
I hate you, idiot engineer at Ford.
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