Programmed to sacrifice pedestrians

By Charlie Sorrel via fastcoexist.com   Article

Self-Driving Mercedes Will Be Programmed To Sacrifice Pedestrians To Save The Driver

“When they crash, self-driving Mercedes will be programmed to save the driver, and not the person or people they hit. That’s the design decision behind the Mercedes Benz’s future Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous cars, according to the company’s manager of driverless car safety, Christoph von Hugo. Instead of worrying about troublesome details like ethics, Mercedes will just program its cars to save the driver and the car’s occupants, in every situation.

One of the biggest debates about driverless cars concerns the moral choices made when programming a car’s algorithms. Say the car is spinning out of control, and on course to hit a crowd queuing at a bus stop. It can correct its course, but in doing so, it’ll kill a cyclist for sure. What does it do? Mercedes’s answer to this take on the classic Trolley Problem is to hit whichever one is least likely to hurt the people inside its cars. If that means taking out a crowd of kids waiting for the bus, then so be it. …

‘If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car,’ von Hugo told Car and Driver in an interview. ‘If all you know for sure is that one death can be prevented, then that’s your first priority.’ …

The moral confusion is deepened when we consider that autonomous cars may save millions of lives that would otherwise have been snuffed out by careless human drivers. That’s no consolation if a Mercedes chooses to use you as an airbag to save its owner, but maybe you’d already have been killed a few years before if a particular human driver hadn’t been replaced by a driverless car.

Mercedes’s von Hugo, then, thinks that the ethical problems will be outweighed by the fact that cars will be better drivers overall. ‘There are situations that today’s driver can’t handle, that . . . we can’t prevent today and automated vehicles can’t prevent, either. The self-driving car will just be far better than the average human driver,’ he told Car and Driver.”

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