While the issues of ethics with autonomous cars are nothing new, now that Google's self-driving car is tackling cities, a new question has come up: should a self-driving car faced with no other option but to crash into something (or someone), collide with the object that will cause the least amount of harm overall?
In the name of crash-optimization, you should program the car to crash into whatever can best survive the collision. In the last scenario, that meant smashing into the Volvo SUV. Here, it means striking the motorcyclist who’s wearing a helmet. A good algorithm would account for the much-higher statistical odds that the biker without a helmet would die, and surely killing someone is one of the worst things auto manufacturers desperately want to avoid.
But we can quickly see the injustice of this choice, as reasonable as it may be from a crash-optimization standpoint. By deliberately crashing into that motorcyclist, we are in effect penalizing him or her for being responsible, for wearing a helmet. Meanwhile, we are giving the other motorcyclist a free pass, even though that person is much less responsible for not wearing a helmet, which is illegal in most U.S. states.
Not only does this discrimination seem unethical, but it could also be bad policy. That crash-optimization design may encourage some motorcyclists to not wear helmets, in order to not stand out as favored targets of autonomous cars, especially if those cars become more prevalent on the road. Likewise, in the previous scenario, sales of automotive brands known for safety may suffer, such as Volvo and Mercedes Benz, if customers want to avoid being the robot car’s target of choice.
|Brent Fletcher Breaks Corkscrew Jump World Record at Hot Wheels Facility|
|Spaceship Factory is Set to Begin|
|When Entropy Rules: Random Boarding a Plane is The Fastest Way|
|Two German freighters traverse Northeast Passage|
|Canada's Silent Commercial Jet|
|“The Amish use us as an experiment.”|
|“Every human being on this planet will be completely redundant within a decade.”|
|“These planets are more likely to look like giant eyeballs whose gaze is forever fixed on their host star.”|
|Fake Name Generator|
|Japanese Robot Serves Ice Cream From Inside a Vending Machine|
|How to Avoid Jury Duty|
|CaptchaTweet: Write Tweets in Captcha Form|
|When the Wrong Hastag Can Get You Killed by an Assassination Drone|
|“Without any security company in the world recognizing that it even existed.”|
|Amateur-Built Electric Car Going After Record Set by Tesla|
|The (Very Scary) People of Public Transit|
|“Single use forever launch clock.”|