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Whose Life Should Your Car Save?

An important ethical dilemma must be solved before people become comfortable trusting their lives to self-driving vehicles, researchers say...
November 16, 2016

An important ethical dilemma must be solved before people become comfortable trusting their lives to self-driving vehicles, researchers say. The dilemma is that autonomous cars must choose between risks to its passengers and risks to a potentially greater number of people outside the vehicle, according to a recently published article in the journal Science.

A large majority of respondents agreed that cars that impartially minimized overall casualties were more ethical, and that those are the kinds of vehicles they would most like to see on the road. But most people also indicated that they would refuse to purchase such a car, and strongly preferred buying the self-protective vehicle. According to the authors, people refused to buy the car they found to be more ethical.

The article notes that a Mercedes Benz official recently indicated that, in situations where its future autonomous cars would have to choose between risks to their passengers and risks to pedestrians, the algorithm would put passenger safety first. But the company quickly reversed course, saying that this would not be its policy. The authors conclude that a solution to such dilemmas would be for the government to enact and enforce new regulations.

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