CNN reports a major social and safety dilemma arises in the debate over self-driving cars: passengers or pedestrians. A study published in the journal Science sets out hypothetical driving scenarios in which decisions have to be made to save either the lives of pedestrians or the lives of the passengers in the self-driving car, but are these cars capable of making such ethical decisions? After six months of conducting nearly 2,000 surveys, researchers found that “76% of respondents believed it is more moral for a driverless vehicle to sacrifice one passenger rather than 10 pedestrians when faced with such a scenario. However, 81% of respondents said they would rather own a car that protected them and their family members at all costs.” PBS NewsHour adds the study also found that “Even when people imagine being in a car with a family member or even with their own child, they still said the car should kill them for the greater good,” according to the study’s lead author and psychological scientist Jean-Fraçois Bonnefon of the Toulouse School of Economics.
ABC News reports that road tests for self-driving cars are currently underway across the country, bringing this idea into a reality. However, on of the major barriers keeping these cars off the market is deciding “how to program these vehicles’ safety rules in the most socially acceptable and ethical way.” The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to release updated guidelines on autonomous vehicles and automated safety technology. Iyad Rahwan, an author of the study, added “That is over one million global deaths annually. But as we work on making the technology safer, we need to recognize the psychological and social challenges.” The Los Angeles Times reports Rahwan continued his interpretation of the variant survey results saying “People want to live in a world in which driverless cars minimize casualties, but they want their own car to protect them at all costs.”
From the news release of the American Association for Justice.