A study published on June 24 in the journal Science explores the social dilemma of driverless car when it comes to limiting accidents. As the survey suggests, 76 percent of people want to sacrifice the passenger’s life to save the pedestrians’ lives.
The surveys were taken between June 2015 and November of that year. The study participants were presented with a scenario where they decided if they approve a driverless car swerving off the road to avoid killing 10 pedestrians at the expense of the passenger’s life.
Essentially, people want these cars to be pedestrian-friendly. But when told that they were the passenger, these participants simply acted on their own self-interest.
“Most people want to live in a world where cars will minimize casualties,” adds study co-author Iyad Rahwan, an associate professor in the MIT Media Lab. “But everybody wants their own car to protect them at all costs.”
Rahwan asserts that if everyone acts on their own self-interest, then we will all end up in tragedy. Driverless cars will not be able to limit accidents as much as it should.
The survey also reveals that people disagree with governments allowing the autonomous cars to be programmed with utilitarian principles. If the government did introduce a law that allows the killing of a passenger, only one third of the participants would purchase the car.
“This is a challenge that should be on the mind of carmakers and regulators alike,” the study authors state. “Moreover, if autonomous vehicles actually turned out to be safer than regular cars, unease over the dilemmas of regulation may paradoxically increase casualties by postponing the adoption of a safer technology.”
Still, the research team asserts that it is too early to conclude that this is how the public really feels. Perhaps, in time, when driverless cars improve and become more common, people would change their minds.
This remains a theoretical discussion. Rahwan wants experts to thoroughly discuss the issue about the driverless car in an informed discussion.