Autonomous Vehicles Will Choose Who Lives and Dies — What Are We Going To Do About It?
Romeen Sheth


Thank you for an excellent article. However, as I envision the future of autonomous transportation and self-driving cars, the trolley decision example isn’t the one that concerns me. I believe, that in such a situation, the vehicle will simply stop in its’ tracks thereby eliminating the need to determine whether the number of lives or the caliber of the people or any personalized characteristics of the individuals in the situation determines the logic associated with the vehicle.

However some of the other thoughts that I do wrestle with are:

  1. During the interim where we have both autonomous vehicles and driver-driven vehicles, it is impossible to control the decisions made by the driver — whether it be the terrorist attacks in London and Paris or the abject recklessness of others or the simple incompetence of some .
  2. With the rapid adoption of autonomous vehicles, is there really aneed to “own” the vehicle? Why would I not simply use an app (like we do today) to summon a vehicle for a specific trip. This would almost be similar to the taxi system currently in use. I really wouldn’t care what make a car is as long as it provides me sufficient space for me and my belongings… Insurance and maintenance would be the domain of the fleet owners. As you point out, does regulation of autonomous vehicles fall under Federal jurisdiction so that we have consistency of regulation or does each state DMV have purview over these vehicles……
  3. What happens to the automobile industry of today ? — does it get dominated by a few first movers akin to metro bus and train/locomotive manufacturers. I clearly don’t know what engine (Cummins or GE or whoever else) drives the specific bus or train I board nor do I care as long as it is on time… Are autonomous vehicles the end of our love affair with cars!!!!
  4. If we end up with a majority of self-driving vehicles, we should presume that this would reduce the issue of traffic congestion as the AI built into these vehicles could effectively communicate the flow of traffic with each other and optimize the speed of the vehicles.
  5. Obviously, the issue of cyber security takes on much greater relevance — hoe do we develop smart digital contracts to ensure that unauthorized persons do not have the ability to hack the decision processes in these vehicles and there is some mechanism (ala block chain) to monitor and manage the changes to the intelligence in these cars.

I must presume that smarter minds have thought through these and other scenarios and that the manufacturers have already determined the best solutions for these thorny issues… However, it would be interesting to see more public discourses and conferences on the “operational barriers” to autonomous vehicles as opposed to the plethora of articles simply on features and aesthetics of the designs by different manufacturers.