The Problem with Self-Driving Cars
Every year, so many people die in car accidents, most of them caused because of the driver's negligence. Exorbitant amounts of money are spent just to fund awareness campaigns and stop people from “drinking and driving”.
All of this after the fact that the technology for self-driving cars is in the last stages of development. Why are self-driving cars not the next big thing yet? Companies like Tesla, Uber and heck, even Google are racing to be the next innovator of autonomous cars.
“This is stupid… Obviously, the cars are expensive.”
See that’s the point, these cars are not ridiculously expensive (at least not for people who own an iPhone X).
“Well then we obviously don’t have the requisite technology”
That is partially true but trust me, the cars are way closer technology-wise than you may think.
The biggest problem with autonomous cars is (insert drumroll) “A Moral Dilemma”.
Disappointed? Just hear me out. Imagine there is a self-driving car minding its own business rolling down the road when suddenly an idiot jumps in front of the car! What should the car be programmed to do if the only alternatives are killing the driver or killing off the idiot?
Consider another case. This time the autonomous car takes a sharp turn to avoid one accident only to find itself in front of an old lady, about to ram into her and kill her? What should the car be programmed to do? Kill the lady or the driver?
This is the last one I promise. What if in the very first case, instead of one person jumping in front of the car, 10 people do. Should the car be programmed to kill the 10 people or the singular passenger of the car?
I lied, this is the last one (#getrektm8). This time the situation is such that it’s nobody’s fault but either the car can ram into 5 people and kill them, ram into an animal van and kill 100 endangered birds and make the species extinct, or kill the driver?
So now I would expect your answers to be:
I. Kill the idiot
II. (Let us leave this one for now)
III. (Again, highly controversial, will discuss later)
IV. Kill the driver
If your answers of the 1st and 4th situations are the same, good job! You have a decent human conscience. Congratulate your parents as they did a fine job raising you.
If they don’t match, there is something seriously wrong with you. Why are you even reading this? The concept of moral dilemmas probably goes right over your head. As far as I am concerned you might be one of those shady government agents (cough Jason Bourne cough) whose conscience was destroyed…
Moving on, so far it might seem obvious as to how cars should be programmed. But what happens when you are the passenger of the car? Would you sacrifice yourself to save 3 or even 5 people when it wasn’t your fault? Go ahead be chivalrous and say yes, but secretly even you know that you would rather kill the 3 people.
By chance, if you really are some god (Albert Einstein for the atheists) reincarnated, and you choose to sacrifice yourself, remember, not all people may think like you. And since this is self-driving cars we are talking about, all of them must be programmed to make the same decision, even if the owner does not wish to do so, or would do something else if he was driving. Therein lies the dilemma… Why would you want to buy a car that might sacrifice you just to save 5 suicidal idiots (the car won’t have the capacity to determine that it was their fault)?
The 2nd and 3rd cases above just reinforce my point… How do you determine the value of anyone’s life?
Not to mention the car might not be able to see a way of saving both the passenger and the pedestrian because it is not a human. Even if start collecting data from previous accidents (become Google part II, “Yes Google, I know that you have been stealing my data…”) chances are the car won’t be able to determine whose fault it was and hence who deserves to die for their mistake…
I realize that this may come across as heartless but that is the sad truth. For this very reason, most people are not willing to buy an autonomous car, as they don’t want to die in an accident when they could have been saved by killing the other person…