(Philip Toscano/PA)
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Most motorists would want children’s lives to be prioritised ahead of their own in a driverless car crash..

In a survey more than 21,000 AA members were asked what they would want a fully automated car to do if two children ran into the road and the car couldn’t stop.

There were three possible scenarios.

Driverless car crash – which would you choose?

59% chose swerving into the back of a parked lorry endangering their own life.

4% would want their car to carry straight on and run over the children.

2% chose swerving to run into an elderly couple on the pavement.

More than a third (34%) said they would prefer not to give their preference. The AA claim this highlights the ethical dilemma faced by driverless car developers.

driverless cars makes roads saferEdmund King, the organisation’s president, said: “Of those who could make a choice, a clear majority decided to put themselves in danger, perhaps indicating they accept the risks and potential fallibilities of the technology.

“The driverless dilemma is a common question for programmers of autonomous vehicles. The number of people who avoided giving a definitive answer shows this is a difficult live or let die dilemma.”

Many believe driverless cars to be safer than those driven by humans because sensors, cameras and radar systems will allow them to respond faster to events.

In November, the Law Commission opened a consultation on what new road rules should be introduced to enable driverless cars to be used.

The questions include whether an automated vehicle should be allowed to mount the pavement or cross a white line to let an emergency vehicle through.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. this may be a major flaw in the driverless car make up i.e the ability to anticipate hidden dangers e.g. picture this, a rural side street on a saturday afternoon; a human driver might see the football bouncing and two children kicking it on the pavement, and might anticipate a third child suddenly emerging from behind a parked transit van to then be run over by the driverless car (the child didn’t hear the electric vehicle of course). On whose conscience is the child’s death? The passive owner of the car reading a book whilst this all happened who has put his trust in a machine?

  2. Is there really a dilemma? Where there is a choice in a road traffic accident and personal injury is unavoidable, then where possible, the suffering should be borne by the parties in proportion to their negligence. Those who run into traffic must suffer the consequences of their actions and the resulting anger of parents should be directed at themselves for failing to adequately train their children.

  3. Firstly are we saying that the AI is calculating the age of pedestrians so that it can discriminate based on this because I don’t think it should or even reliably could? I think the question includes children in order to illicit an emotional response which obviously the AI would be unaffected by. The AI of course should take all reasonable action to avoid hitting “pedestrians” but crashing the car should only be a last resort in order to avoid a bigger accident e.g. a head-on collision. Also swerving onto an occupied pavement is unacceptable – why victimise those who’ve done nothing wrong? In this case if there is no safe space to swerve into then keeping the current course while applying maximum braking to minimise the impact would be the most justifiable action.

  4. There is no easy answer to this. Firstly, why are the children playing in a busy street? That’s the parents at fault. Then of course, there is no guarantee that the driver would anticipate the hidden danger. From what I have seen recently the standard of driving has reduced to an unacceptable level. Ignorance and selfishness seem to be the order of the day. The driverless car would be no more dangerous than the human driven car. It may be a lot safer in say 95% of everything else so why pick on the minority with a what if scenario. If kids run out in front of you or an elderly person stumbles out in front of you they get run down. It may be a fatal accident but as long as the driver is sober and fully alert, and is travelling within the allowed speed limit, it’s the person who gets run down at fault. Don’t knock progress with the “but what ifs”. With moving vehicles, cars, lorries, trains and boats and planes there is always risk.

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