The ethics of automation

driverless cars, and the ethics thereof
driverless cars, and the ethics thereof

Given that there are already automated cars on the road why are we asking this question now? If the research is just being done to find out what people want in an autonomous vehicle what’s the difference? Well, there is one and it happens to be the only one big car companies are concerned with. it’s the question of what the customer wants. So far there are only prototype robotic cars that don’t have passengers. When you ask people what sort of automation they want it turns into an ethical discussion. Should you avoid a wall to save yourself and hit a pedestrian, or save the pedestrian and risk death to you or a baby in the car? A survey was conducted and you would be surprised with the answer.

As a consumer myself I would want to save myself too, but I also don’t want to kill a pedestrian. It’s a conundrum, and stuck between a rock and a hard place where do you go? I think there should be some middle ground here, and the military has the right idea that gives human control to these types of decisions, the ones involving deaths. It’s also very scary to think that the military already has automation in weapons making some level of kill decision.

The old ethical question of a car out of control comes to mind. There’s a group of three or four people, and a single person. Naturally, you steer towards the single person to save the most people. Then you could ask questions about the people. How old are they? Are they male or female, etc. But the fact remains that this decision will have been taken away from you and pre-programmed into the car, which places legality on the car maker. Or if you chose the specifics of the program maybe the legality is on you for hitting that pedestrian and saving your baby. Maybe you could have avoided it by driving yourself? Are we that lazy?


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Blake is a writer who specializes in content writing and novel-length fiction.

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