Self-drive Cars… Are They Set to Make a Killing?

In the future your car may have some difficult decisions to make.

We are heading towards a new era in automotive history. One which may redefine the very word Automobile.Somewhere right now on the desert roads of the Western United States, there’s a little car with a mind of its own and it’s not a Volkswagen Beetle. For the last year or so, this car and others like have been busy rewriting the rule book on personal transport. These test vehicles are the next stage in the evolutionary chain of the motor vehicle and you can even own one of the prototypes right now. Driver-less cars are coming and with them comes some awkward questions which some folks have been anxious to avoid.

Most that is, but not all. Christoph von Hugo of Mercedes caused outrage when during an interview with Fortune Magazine appeared to suggest it was the position of Mercedes that their cars would be programmed to prioritize the lives of their passengers over pedestrians. This suggestion implied that the Mercedes cars would, in fact, be programmed to kill. The car giant was quick to correct the magazine and state that such a position would be illegal. Nevertheless, the question opens a debate which will one day have to be answered.

How will cars choose between killing one party or another?

I have a friend who will, after a few whiskies, recount the tale of how he lost two of his fingers in a motorcycle crash. The ending of his tale could have been a lot worse and that’s where the real story lies. It was his decision to put his own life at risk rather than almost certainly taking that of an innocent pedestrian which is the real moral behind his anecdote.

There will come a time in the near future where an autonomous vehicle will have to make a similar call. We can only speculate as to where the lines will be drawn, but in a world so driven by the bottom line is it too much of a leap to assume the story to come will have a different outcome?

The choice will come down to this. Given a choice, should a car be programmed to save its occupant or a pedestrian? It’s a question we’ll hear a lot in the future and at the moment the jury is out.

There’s a deeper question to and this one’s might concern us all. What if the question came down to value? Would say a corporation choose to save its cargo over a pedestrian?

The first to die…

The first person killed as a result of an automotive robot was Robert Williams of Flat Rock Michigan. The year was 1979 and the accident happened at the Ford Plant and although it took nearly thirty years to happen again, happen again it did. Half a planet away and at a different plant, a 22 year old technician was killed by a robot at Volkswagen’s Kassle factory. The point is, we live in an imperfect unpredictable world and that’s not going to change anytime soon.