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New Global Survey of the Ethics of Autonomous Vehicles

A paper published in the journal Nature reveals the findings of a survey of 2 million people in 200 countries on the ethics of the "trolley problem" as applied to self-driving cars.
November 5, 2018, 12pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"A massive new survey developed by MIT researchers reveals some distinct global preferences concerning the ethics of autonomous vehicles, as well as some regional variations in those preferences," reports Peter Dizikes.

"The survey has global reach and a unique scale, with over 2 million online participants from over 200 countries weighing in on versions of a classic ethical conundrum, the 'Trolley Problem,'" explains Dizikes. "The problem involves scenarios in which an accident involving a vehicle is imminent, and the vehicle must opt for one of two potentially fatal options. In the case of driverless cars, that might mean swerving toward a couple of people, rather than a large group of bystanders."

Self-driving cars are likely to face similar scenarios, and deciding how to program the cars to respond in each scenario is one of the largest moral quandaries still under consideration—with almost no resolution—even as self-driving cars are taking up more and more space on the roads.

As for the findings of the survey, "the most emphatic global preferences in the survey are for sparing the lives of humans over the lives of other animals; sparing the lives of many people rather than a few; and preserving the lives of the young, rather than older people." Dizikes reveals more detail the differences in moral preferences of populations distinguished by geographic and cultural differences in the source article.

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Published on Wednesday, October 24, 2018 in MIT News
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