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Self-Driven Morals

Self-Driven Morals

I was in an engineering class the topic of Tesla’s self-automated vehicle technology was brought up. It’s not exactly the technology that’s holding up the process of self-driving cars on the road. It’s the moral issues surrounding their development that are causing delays. How you ask? Think about accidents.

There’s a reason they are called accidents because you don’t intend for them to happen. However, computers only do what you tell them to do. That means there would have to be a computerized program deciding the best outcome for a problematic situation. This is easy for “accidents” involving one car and inanimate objects, but it becomes more complicated the more individuals get involved. Unless we change from entirely self-automated vehicles, there will be problems in a world with some cars operated by people and other operated on their own.

The World Economic Forum published an article in collaboration with MIT News back in October about the moral components of these computer programs with surveys collected from thousands of individuals in over a hundred countries around the world. This sort of communal or public engagement is an essential part of innovative research as this technology being implanted would directly effect the communities surrounding it. The research showed that there are sub-clusters of common decisions mainly dictated by cultural customs that direct the moral compass. This makes sense as many people within a given culture share popular beliefs (e.g. choosing to crash into a law abiding elderly person versus a young jaywalker).

Maybe this means one day, if and when this technology is implemented, they will have to alter the crash settings to be dependent on the individual’s preferences.


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