It is a daring goal, but so is the intent of creating self-driving cars.
Oftentimes, technology and innovation eclipse state and federal legislation, meaning, for now, the automated road ahead remains hazy as lawmakers, courts and initiatives still try to address issues around liability and ethics posed by self-driving cars.
The concept of self-driving vehicles is still in its research stage but computerized driving technology is slowly making its way into vehicles we use nowadays. Our cars are already equipped with automated components which can change gears, detect pedestrians, as well as to help us perform difficult maneuvers and force us to wear the seat belt. In the next few years, vehicles able to steer, brake and accelerate on their own are expected to be seen on roads. This technology is thought to help avoid traffic fatalities caused by fatigued or careless drivers.
Ethical Concerns: The World of Self-Driving Cars Might Cost Lives
In a future where most of the vehicles on the road are fully self-driving, the correct and ethical way of programming such automobiles raises huge problems since this encoded core of the cars is the one that controls the actions of these smart vehicles.
But such tough decisions cannot be made only by engineers and IT specialists working for car manufacturers. They have to be shared with the society as this new technology will have a great impact on people’s lives and comes at the cost of the lives on the roadways.
It is true that, so far, the number of accidents involving self-driving cars is low. However, this is the result of automated vehicles that simply stop when facing an uncertain situation. As technology continues to take over the automotive industry, self-driving systems may encounter more complex scenarios to instantly react to, and this matter raises important ethical issues.
Undoubtedly, the topic of self-driving vehicles can be a great source of excitement. More than 30,000 deaths are estimated to be avoided every year in the U.S. alone, not to mention the huge importance of these cars in the lives of people with reduced mobility and physical disabilities. However, a constraining issue arises when autonomous vehicles are confronted with where a collision is imminent and not avoidable—even if it complies with the programmed robotic rules or algorithms.
Imagine yourself in a self-driving car on a sunny day when you see people waiting patiently at a bus station. At the same time, another vehicle, driven by a human, is heading towards you at great speed. The autonomous vehicle has two available options: avoid the car but hit the people waiting on the side of the road or crash into the car and probably kill both yourself, and the other driver.
Such a scenario sets forth the issue of whether an autonomous vehicle chooses to kill the operator of the vehicle or the third party. Who should decide how the robotic car should react or be programmed – the autonomous vehicle manufacturer or the operator? And if the system makes the decision, what criteria should the system use to determine which individual lives and which individual dies? Is it ethical to injure the passengers of the self-driving vehicle in order to save the other people’s lives?
This is the kind of decisions that automated cars will have to face on a daily basis and researchers, engineers, philosophers and society as a whole must work together in order to find the most ethically correct way to program these revolutionary vehicles.
The legal and ethical implications of the decision are most difficult and must be considered by those who design and control algorithms for safe autonomous vehicles. It is impossible with current technology to have an autonomous vehicle on the road that gets you from point A to point B without considering such a scenario.
About the Author:
Sean M. Cleary is a personal injury attorney, founder and president of the Miami-based Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary. The firm has been listed as an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau. Sean M. Cleary has a thorough knowledge of car accident law and has been able to help people that were hurt in car accidents under all sorts of circumstances gain compensation. He also has high expertise in areas such as medical malpractice, product liability, boating and aviation accidents and all types of personal injuries from paraplegia and quadriplegia to fractures and amputations. Guided by a philosophy of compassion and genuine care for the victims of personal injuries, Mr. Cleary also offers moral support for the individuals and families affected by the negligence of others.