Despite its hyperbolic title, this piece in the MIT Technology Review (which includes a link to the ungated research paper) is interesting both because it reports attempts to bring experimental ethics to bear on the normative applied ethics of self-driving cars and (particularly at the end) shows how the ethical considerations bearing on how self-driving cars are programmed become imbued with a number of the same ones informing medical ethics. >>>
LINK: Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill (MIT Technology Review)
The answers to these ethical questions are important because they could have a big impact on the way self-driving cars are accepted in society. Who would buy a car programmed to sacrifice the owner?
So can science help? Today, we get an answer of sorts thanks to the work of Jean-Francois Bonnefon at the Toulouse School of Economics in France and a couple of pals. These guys say that even though there is no right or wrong answer to these questions, public opinion will play a strong role in how, or even whether, self-driving cars become widely accepted.
So they set out to discover the public’s opinion using the new science of experimental ethics. This involves posing ethical dilemmas to a large number of people to see how they respond. And the results make for interesting, if somewhat predictable, reading. “Our results provide but a first foray into the thorny issues raised by moral algorithms for autonomous vehicles,” they say.
Here is the nature of the dilemma. Imagine that in the not-too-distant future, you own a self-driving car. One day, while you are driving along, an unfortunate set of events causes the car to head toward a crowd of 10 people crossing the road. It cannot stop in time but it can avoid killing 10 people by steering into a wall. However, this collision would kill you, the owner and occupant. What should it do?
What do you think?