Give your car a conscience: Why driverless cars need morals

Give your car a conscience: Why driverless cars need morals


Bruno Mangyoku By Sandy Ong ON THE night of 3 September 2010, 33-year-old Brian Wood was driving along a highway in Washington state. Asleep in the passenger seat was his wife Erin, seven months pregnant with their first child. The couple were on their way from Vancouver, Canada, to spend time at her parents’ vacation home by the picturesque Puget Sound. Out of nowhere, a Chevy Blazer came hurtling towards them. By the time Wood saw it, it was too late. He braked hard and swerved right to take the brunt of the impact. He died instantly, but his wife and their unborn daughter survived. We hope it never happens to us, but any driver might find themselves making such a split-second, life-and-death decision. They are part rational, part reflex, and draw on a delicate balance of altruism and self-interest programmed into all of us. To his wife, Wood was a hero – but indisputably he was a human. As our cars edge towards making these decisions for us, cases like this raise profound ethical questions. To drive safely in a human world, autonomous vehicles must learn to think like us – or at least understand how humans think. But how will they learn, and which humans should they try to emulate? “We’re talking about self-driving cars, up to two tonnes of steel and machine that could crash into homes and people,
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