Why Humans Humanize Self-Driving Cars

A recent article presents the findings of a study examining the question of how humans will assign or cope with blame for collisions caused by self-driving cars. The findings present insight on how humans will interact with technology in the future.
May 15, 2014, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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JD Hancock

Adam Waytz details the method and findings of research into the reactions of test subjects to self-driving cars: "people’s responses to driving an autonomous car suggests that people are exceedingly willing to grant these cars’ humanlike intelligence, and the more humanlike features the car conveys—when the car possesses a name, voice, and gender—the more people trust it to operate competently, as a human driver would."

The article repeatedly references a morbid juxtaposition behind the dehumanizing aspects of war and the humanizing rituals of test subjects after they experience collisions in self-driving cars. Here's why the comparison matters: "Beyond addressing questions about how we will assign blame to the autonomous nonhumans of tomorrow (insurance companies are surely taking notes), these findings also give insight into the inverse process of dehumanization. Just as the mere addition of a voice and gender leads people to treat the car as humanlike, when we fail to perceive these features in other people, we are more likely to treat them as mindless objects."

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Published on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 in Slate
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