The “trolley problem,” a famous philosophical question, is an ethical predicament that has bewildered many, especially those with idealistic affinities. Think about a trolley that’s on a deadly collision path towards a group of people and you can only save them by pushing one big person to change its course; what would you do?
To simplify the debate, researchers took a more “humanistic” approach and began surveying the general public. A questionnaire was asked in an online survey, which included a situation where the car would either kill a group of walkers on the road or would deviate to hit a wall and kill the driver.
The survey ironically showed that over 75 percent chose self-sacrifice to save the bystanders, the number of people that opted for self-sacrifice dropped to 50% when instead of a large group of people, there was just one pedestrian that they would end up slaying.
The numbers aren’t really an accurate pointer though. Human nature of self-preservation is an influential force, and had the surveyors known that their answers would be used to program the self-driving cars that they will use; it’s highly likely that they would have responded differently.
The participants were paid 25 cents for the responding on the ‘Amazon Mechanical Turk.’ An aggregate of 913 contributors gave responses to three surveys asking diverse questions. The survey was accessible online worldwide open for all.
The initial version of the survey randomized the figure of pedestrians killed which ranging from one to 10. The second tested how the participants would program the vehicle if they had the duty to do so, would they let the driver die every time or the pedestrians? In the third survey, they were told a story in which ten pedestrians were saved after the vehicle deviated to kill the driver; they were then asked to assume that they were driving and later as one of the pedestrians. Their answers on the ethics of this were assessed.
Demographics show that the ones enthusiastically anticipating autonomous cars were young and had lenient religious values.
Results suggest that most people who participated in the survey preferred that the vehicle should prioritize logical gain, to save more over less, which in philosophy is known as utilitarianism. Road policies are sure to become a daunting problem, because it’s uncertain if the public would allow vehicles that have the deciding ability to sacrifice their occupants if the situation and logic supports it. This will be the topic of constant debate and a tenacious nuisance for companies after they start mass producing this technology. Indeed, self-driving cars are the future, a safer substitute, which has the capacity to reduce road related fatalities by a whopping 90%. But since exceptions fuel most debates, the remaining 10% will be, in the name of ethics, a bane for the automotive industry. //LD
Jemima Meyers is a passionate blogger write who loves to write on latest trending topics. She is a regular contributor at many authoritative blogs and currently she is working for eQuip Sells it, dump trucks and other heavy machinery dealer, Follow her through @jemima_mayers.