Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Would You Buy An Amazingly Useful Gizmo That Might Decide To Kill You?

1.2 million people die in car accidents every year. The number one cause? A lack of focus. The next culprits in line are speeding, drunk driving, running red lights and reckless driving.

The number one solution to prevent deaths on the road? Machine driven cars.

It can steer, break, accelerate, observe the road, change lanes, respond to random events, all while obeying traffic laws.

Driverless cars provide lots of benefits.

Kids can chauffeur themselves to football practice. The visually impaired can finally own a car and drive it. And who isn’t looking forward to snoozing their way to work?

But there’s one notable barrier blocking the way to a driverless future: trust.

Are you willing to put your life in the hands of an overgrown calculator with different ethics than your own?

Let me illustrate.

Imagine you’re speedily driving your autonomous car through the crowded streets of Paris.

A cyclist rolls in front of your car.

You’ve got three options.

One, do you swerve to save the cyclist and hit a group of ten pedestrians on the sidewalk?
Two, do you run over the cyclist.
Three, do you slam into a parked car and possibly kill yourself?

A similar question was asked in a study about programming moral principles into machines.

Participants unanimously answered, “I would never buy a self-sacrificing car! But everyone else should.”

The ethics we teach four wheelers could make or break the adoption of autonomous automobiles. People clearly don’t want to get into a self terminating car.

But at the same time, studies are showing 90% of traffic accidents will be eliminated if we all own driverless rides. Saving thousands of lives is so impactful, manual driving might eventually be seen just as irresponsible as smoking.

A driverless future is still several decades away, but its arrival is imminent. Which means we’re left with one choice: do we embrace the machine as our friend and speed up its coming, or do we see it as our enemy and keep the mechanical chauffeur away as long as possible?

P.S. The self sacrificing car problem is a variation on the famous trolley problem.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach