New Study analyzes people's perception about autonomous vehicles

Autonomous cars are considered to be the future and also not that distant. Engineers are working to refine and develop the software required for the vehicles. Now, an ethical debate has started as what would happen in extreme situations in which a crash and injury or death could not be avoided.

This question has been picked up in a research paper titled, ‘The Social Dilemma of Autonomous Vehicles’ published in the journal Science. The research paper makes an attempt to understand as to how people want their self-driving cars to act when faced in an extreme situation that could lead to death.

The researchers said that they have noticed two different things. Firstly, participants were in favor to lessen the number of public deaths even when it comes to risk vehicles’ passengers’ life. This approach as per the researchers is known as the ‘utilitarian approach’.

Secondly, when the participants were asked about the car that they would buy, they said that they would like to choose a car that protects them and their passengers first. The researchers said that though we would like to have safer streets, when it comes to safety then preference will be for the cars that keep them safe first.

Study’s co-author Azime Chariff from the University of California Irvine said that the issue is known as the trolley problem. “In the trolley problem, people face the dilemma of instigating an action that will cause somebody’s death, but by doing so will save a greater number of lives”, affirmed Chariff.

In the study, the participants faced different situations like getting a chance to move straight and kill a specific number of pedestrians or taking the car into next lane and kill a different group of animals or humans. In this situation, the participants chose ‘the preferred scenario’. In this case, the car will crash into concrete barrier, killing a criminal, a homeless person, and a baby.

The study researchers mentioned that people like to think good about others in abstract situation but when it comes to buying a car then their main focus is their safety as well as of the car occupants.

Study’s co-author John Bonnefon from France’s National Center for Scientific Research said that self driving is a different concept of automated transportation, as they are not competing with other cars on the road.

The researchers also think it is great if programming could lessen fatalities, but it is also vital to consider that giving too much importance to moral considerations could affect development of a product that is in the stage of development and could take years or even decades.

Anuj K. Pradhan from UMTRI’s Human Factors Group does not think that such ethical issues are going to affect the advancement experts are making in this particular field of technology. Bonnefon has even warned that comparison could not be made between a machine and a human driver.

There is a possibility that one-day, self-driving cars would become perfect. Before, automatic cars are launched on roads, one thing is sure that provocative moral questions will arise. Owing to which, Bonnefon has said that there is a need to engage in a conversation about the moral values as how all want to program in cars.

According to a report in CNN News by Jacqueline Howard, "The surveys revealed that the majority of respondents believed autonomous vehicles should be programmed to be "utilitarian," attempting to save the most lives (in this case, the pedestrians) while sacrificing as few as possible (the passengers), said Jean-Francois Bonnefon, a psychological scientist at the Toulouse School of Economics in France and a co-author of the study. Yet, most respondents also indicated that they would not want to purchase a vehicle that was programmed to be utilitarian."

The surveys showed that 76% of respondents believed it is more moral for a driverless vehicle to sacr

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