Research round three - How are self driving cars programed?

Inquiry Question: Are self driving cars worth all the ethical problems they cause?

In previous research rounds, I looked at: The moral, ethical, and technical problems with self driving cars & the benefits of self driving cars

This round, I will be looking at: How are the cars programed to solve the moral problems?


I hope that this round, I’ll be finding some answers as to how the cars are actually built and how engineers are working to make them safe. I was worried about finding sources for this round, but I received so many links from you guys in the comments! Thanks 😊


So the firs thing I looked at was how they are solving the “who should the car protect/kill” debate. The car has to be programed to kill someone, either the passenger or the pedestrian. Technically, the pedestrians generally have the right of way, so cars will be programed to protect them instead of the passenger. Some people may not feel safe inside a car programed to kill them, so they might try to alter the car’s programing. But how do we stop this? An easy answer would be to design the car to only accept software that has been approved by the Ministry of Transportation. This is a sort of digital lock, and it is illegal to teach other people how to over ride the locks.


Unfortunately, a locked device can still be hacked into. Digital locks don’t make it impossible to reprogram the devices, they just make sure that if you want to reconfigure your device, you have to do it without the use of a business or a product. A good example of this is with mobile phones. Before the law was clarified in 2002, you could unlock your phone by simply downloading a software or asking someone experienced to help you.


Technically, we could lock the cars programing, but we probably shouldn’t. A digital lock creates an area in the computer programing that even the creator can’t enter, and that could cause problems. For example, if the program asks for a list of files in the computer, the computer must not include the locked files, it must omit them. When asked for the operating system to list all running programs, it will not list the lock program, because then it would be deleted. So this lock is not only locking things for the users, but for the creators as well. (1)


So my first source states explains why the self driving cars will be programed to protect pedestrians, but my second source said that most cars, such as Mercedes cars, will be programed to protect the passenger. I decided to do some digging and see which page is more reliable. I noticed that my first website had no sources, and is written by someone unqualified in this subject. The second page was still written by a journalist, but they referenced several interviews with qualified people, and they referenced other sources. I personally think that my second source is more reliable, but the first one is still full of useful information. This is the perfect example of how confused we are about self driving cars. I think that everyone should be better informed before we actually start using these cars. There are tons of articles like these two that contradict each other.


Not only websites are contradicting each other, but so are consumers. Mercedes polled about 2,000 people, and almost all of them agreed that they wanted the car to make the decisions based on causing the least amount of death and injuries, but in the same time, half of the people said they would only buy the car if their safety was a priority. (2)


We need to clear the air, because self driving cars are going to be on the streets even faster than I originally thought. It is estimated that in two years, there will be 10 million self-driving cars on the road. Children born today won’t even need to get a driver’s license! In only 11 years, there will only be 44 million passenger driven vehicles on American roads!


I learnt a lot this round, and I’m ready to do my metamorphosis! Sorry that is was a bit shorter, there was not to much information to cover. Thanks for your support 😊

(Just a note, thank you guys for pointing out that I forgot to add my sources. Unfortunately I no longer have them) 

Original Post

Hi Jasmine, 

Wow good job! Your topic is really intriguing, and I’ve always been fascinated with self-driving vehicles. I've always had this curiosity in what a self-driving car/its program would do in a scenario that they can't avoid. Would they “favor” the safety of the pedestrian or occupants? Something that I found you did a really good job while researching is the effort you demonstrated in finding the variety of good reputable resources and your journey. I agree with you: there are, in fact, tons of articles that contradict one another on the internet. It is crucial in coming into the conclusion which pieces of information are “legit”. I read in an article, similar to the first website I’ve attached below, that mentioned how one of the biggest fears of having self-driving cars is that other road users might drive erratically in order the program on the driverless cars into submission. I find these potential dangers from other road users to be really interesting, and for you to look into them if you didn’t decide to already, would be exciting! You can also investigate other self-driving vehicle developments. Even so, next time, for your future rounds of research, I suggest you link the articles you found because I believe it would be beneficial for readers to trace back your information back to the source if they are intrigued to learn more! Nonetheless, you did a formidable job! 


Websites you can use:  


Good job!!!! 


Hey @Jasmine Paduraru (Charles Best)

Absolutely enjoyed reading this. I've always wanted to find out how it worked but it is one of those things you wonder but never really go find out how it works. Not that you don't have time, but the fact you just forgot or too lazy to figure it out 

Now, your research is definitely helping me do that! I know it is funny, I will read this for minutes than spend seconds googling it. 

It has been interesting how the technology has been advancing. In the next 20 years it'll definitely really impact how the world was in the 2000s than 2020s. There are videos on Tesla cars using its auto avoid crash system which of course, working progress but a step towards a perfected model. 
Like this one. 0:52 Could have ended very badly

Just a minor thing to note is that there is a small typo here: 

So the firs thing I looked at 

Metamorphosis coming up? Short is fine! There are always modifications needed to be made. Great job this research cycle!

Keep it up! 


Hey Jasmine!  

Great round of research! I really like how you formatted it and how detailed it was.  It's unfortunate that many locks can still be hacked into, it makes me wonder if in the future, people could develop a lock that has absolutely no way of being broken into, if that's even possible. Overall, great job this cycle, reading your research has been really intriguing to me.

Good luck on your metamorphosis!

Hello Jasmine,
This seems like a question with no definitive question considering both sides have their points, and I have to say I absolutely love it. I have to say though that it would be damn near impossible to actually make it impossible for no one to alter the code or program for the car even with the so-called digital lock; the reason I say this is because we can already do it with devices and even if we didn’t people would more then likely come up with a rooted version of the software that can be put in without the lock. I think a much better way of doing it would be to make it illegal to alter with the code, as any errors a person makes could lead to very costly errors. As to their being different answers, well different companies have different priorities, standards, and creators, but more so there isn’t a definitive answer because currently there aren’t really any laws regulating it or an answer to the question that would make a company look good. I’m curious to know more about this subject and how it goes in the future as I have the feeling that it will greatly impact us in the future. I can’t wait to see what conclusion you come to.

Here are some websites that I think may be of use in the study of your topic:
• This one won't really help but I found it interesting so here:
• This one provides quite a bit of insight into peoples opinions from different parts of the world:
• This one talks a bit about the first one and the results from it:

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