In practice, because we are not entirely logical creatures, a public campaign may be required to help shift attitudes. Initially, people will be reluctant to use a vehicle that would sacrifice its passengers to save a greater number of other people. If anything, the driverless car is the least problematic of these new dilemmas.
Just as the invention of the car led to the creation of suburbs, so the driverless car will allow a re-imagination of our urban space. What should it be programmed to do? Rather, most of us have Kantian instincts — we object to humans such as our overweight man being used merely as a means to an end. Above all, however, it will be directly life-saving. Otherwise we will delay the arrival of technologies — such as the driverless car — and hold up all the extraordinary benefits they promise. However, I think that when it comes to machines we will be more tolerant of their making utilitarian decisions. But ethical issues might turn out to be the bigger obstacle. Imagine the car is faced with an unavoidable accident — it can swerve one way and hit a child, or another and plough into several adult pedestrians. So what is to be done? But what if a runaway train is heading towards five people, again tied to the track, and you are standing on a footbridge overlooking it, next to an overweight man? If so, that would be bad news. What kind of morals should be programmed into the machine? This time, almost everyone agrees that you should not kill one person to save the five lives. The crucial point is to acknowledge that trolley dilemmas are going to be extremely rare. Never before have human beings been able to subcontract ethical decisions — including the most serious, involving life and death. What degree of risk to civilian life is acceptable before the autonomous missile launches an attack? What should you do? This is borne out by a recent study that asked what people would do in various iterations of the trolley problem. Most people — young and old, rich and poor — believe you should divert the train. If something unexpected occurs on the road ahead, it will almost always be able to brake in time to avoid a collision. Share via Email Illustration: It suggests that, around the world, people believe the car should save as many lives as possible, though it also revealed some variation in how people in different countries, for example, weighed a young life against an elderly one. They include social gains think of elderly people currently isolated in their homes because they no longer feel confident driving , economic and efficiency gains an end to all that wasted time behind the wheel and environmental gains there will be many fewer cars and more options to car-pool. Driverless cars are merely one example of the autonomous machines to which we will delegate ethical choices. Around the world, more than 1 million people are killed in car accidents each year, most because of driver error.
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