Electronic Super Highway
Sarah Mohawk

On October 12th, 2015 a research paper was published entitled ‘Autonomous Vehicles Need Experimental Ethics: Are We Ready for Utilitarian Cars?’. This paper investigated the results of a survey conducted though online provider Mechanical Turk, reimbursing respondents with 25 US cents for their participation. They were presented a simple ethical problem involving their preferences for the reaction of a self driving car.

The car is suddenly confronted with a crowd of pedestrians. It has multiple options but they all end in an unavoidable accident:
a) Continue on it’s original route to hit the crowd of pedestrians
b) Swerve to the side, killing one or more pedestrians, but less than the original group.
c) Swerve to into a concrete barrier, killing it’s occupant instead of many.
d) The car selects one of the three previous options randomly

The study found that the majority of people supported the utilitarian approach, however they also responded that they would not be using a self-driving car themselves. The conclusion being that people generally expected everybody else would be making the sacrifice, but not themselves.

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Photos: Sarah Mohawk