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 😊