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Understanding The Ethics of Driverless Cars

Posted by Timothy J. Ryan | Mar 05, 2018 | 0 Comments

Driverless cars are not the stuff of sci-fi novels or movies anymore. They're already here, being tested on our roadways. Tech companies and automakers are in a rat race to put these self-driving cars in the market. While a number of us may be uncomfortable at the very thought of not having control over our vehicles and may possibly be spooked as we watch a steering wheel turn on its own, there are other pressing concerns that have been raised as well, regarding the safety of these vehicles, liability issues and the ethics of operating these vehicles.

There are several ethical questions presented by this new technology such as whom the vehicle should save and whom it should harm. Is there a situation where an accident is unavoidable? These are usually judgment calls made by human beings when we drive vehicles. But, in the absence of a human driver at the wheel, such ethical decisions are left to a robot.

Delving into the Ethical Dilemmas

As driverless technology becomes more prevalent, the discussion about how they should behave in situations they cannot anticipate is getting louder. A number of studies currently estimate that driverless cars would significantly reduce car accidents. Some studies estimate accidents could come down by about 90 percent. No one believes, of course, that traffic accidents will be completely eliminated. And that brings up the ethical questions involving these cars that drive themselves.

Here are a few of those questions. If the car finds itself in a situation where it has to choose between harming one person or the other, how would a robot make that tough decision? Can it differentiate between older people and young children? And would those factors shift the equation in terms of the decision the vehicle makes? What would a driverless car do when it is faced with a situation where it has to choose between striking a car or a pedestrian? Can it tell the difference and how would its decision in such a situation be justified?

Experts worry that when it comes to driverless cars, not many companies are discussing these ethical concerns. They say if driverless technology is really to going to be beneficial to society, companies that make this technology must ensure that these ethical issues are resolved quickly. The key to that is programming the artificial intelligence, which is what drives these vehicles.

Humans process thousands of situations each day and make decisions that they have to make in real time. We do that as we make our way through traffic as well. All that processing and decision making needs to be programmed into a vehicle, but whether we have the data yet to create a machine that can perceive and react to each and every foreseeable and unforeseeable situation, is highly questionable.

Car Accident Wrongful Deaths

While the hope is that driverless cars will reduce the number of traffic accident injuries and fatalities, there are also concerns that automakers do their due diligence when it comes to testing these vehicles. Our California car accident wrongful death lawyers will be closely monitoring the progress and evolution of driverless cars.

About the Author

Timothy J. Ryan

Personal injury attorney Timothy J. Ryan has helped California injury victims recover more than $1 Billion since 1981. Tim is on the board of governors for the Consumer Attorneys of California and received the 2020 award "10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys" for client satisfaction.


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Timothy J. Ryan & Associates

Timothy J. Ryan & Associates has earned a national reputation for aggressive client advocacy and real results for grieving families. If you have questions about your loved one's death, you can obtain a free consultation from attorney Timothy J. Ryan. Call (714) 898-4444 to get help today.