Ethical Dilemma of Intelligent Vehicles
When science climbs few steps, technology often breaks few barriers itself. Computers on wrists and 3D films on headsets is something very common today, cars that drive by themselves is another trend which is catching on, but then you take a step back. Having a coffee mug (very important, when you contemplate), you sip slowly and think about technology from a different stand point. We as humans, when behind the wheels are bound by certain unsaid rules of the society, which are called ethics in simple terms, but what about intelligent cars?
Driver less cars are said to reduce 90% of the accidents on road, these accidents which generally take place due to human error.
Though technology has reduced the percentage of accidents to bare minimum, the society still wants to know the intelligent car decision in those 10% situations when it has to crash. Now let’s suppose an intelligent car faces a failure in its brake system and has an option to either hit a group of pedestrians or hit the wall, killing the passenger in the car. Any sane person would choose the option where minimum damage is done and for a society that has always wanted a “greater” good will want the car to hit and kill the passengers in the car. A recent survey validated the same point but when people were asked if they would buy the car that kills them and saves a group of pedestrians, they all refused. Now, this is really confusing, isn’t it?
This reminds me of a trolley problem, discussed in 1967. Suppose a train is coming down a track where 5 men are working, you have the switch to divert the train onto another track where only a single worker is working, would you do it? Most people answered yes, when asked this question as it resulted in lesser number of fatalities and hence a lesser cost to the society. But, now, let’s suppose that the train can only be stopped on the first track by pushing a large man over the track to stop the train, would you do that? Surprisingly a large number of people opted out and said they won’t push the man to stop the train. Both the scenarios, explained above have the same consequence, yet people respond differently. This tells me one thing, people though want a greater good for the society but, they don’t want to be associated with the one who suffers from its impact, just like the case of the intelligent car. Does it question ethics? You tell me.
You can read about the trolley problem here: https://theconversation.com/the-trolley-dilemma-would-you-kill-one-person-to-save-five-57111
Various researchers and car manufactures have thus concluded that; there will always be a trade-off, when it comes to accepting technology. They just want to make sure that, the option they choose will make people buy the car and not just praise its being. Some people, throughout the world are also considering stopping the manufacturing of these cars until the technology is efficient enough to eliminate that 10% risk and hence, the ethical dilemma won’t even exist. But, I really don’t think technology has ever evolved in a lab. It needs that field testing so that it can learn from its behavior and from the behavior of those around it to better interpret the need of the society.
All in all, we believe that there is a need of a regulation, which is adhered by all car manufactures and by general public, which works towards a greater good and hence can be made compulsory. For the same, professors from MIT have been asking people from round the globe, they have devised a website, where series of questions related to ethical situations are asked and people decide, who lives and who dies. There is still no concrete answer to the dilemma of morals for intelligent cars but still, advancement into understanding the society is being facilitated by this approach.
You can take the moral test here: http://moralmachine.mit.edu/
Though intelligent cars make a lot of moral choices in their normal functioning, they decide when to slow down or how much space to leave between two cars. Many people feel that, these decisions are the ones which an intelligent car will have to make on a regular basis and these should be the one we must focus on and not the ones which are really rare. Cases which are not that frequent should not halt our adoption of technology.
I personally agree that; every technology, when first adopted comes with its own set of challenges and we must face them in the open market and not in closed lab doors. What do you think about the Ethical dilemma surrounding intelligent cars, let me know in the comments below. Till then, keep reading. Cheers!!