E-Ethics: Digital Decision Making Is Around The Corner

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The idea of self-driving cars has started to become much closer to a reality over the last few years. With manufacturers working hard to push this technology forwards, business owners exploring new ways to exploit vehicles for their work, and customers getting exciting about the prospect of never having to drive again, it’s easy to see this field’s growing popularity. Of course, though, there is still a lot of work to be done before the world is ready for this sort of tool, with elements like ethics being very hard for everyone to agree upon. This post will be exploring some of the key factors which have been used to build this debate.

The Decisions They Have To Make

For most people, the idea of a computer making informed decisions sounds a little bit like a joke. Companies like Tesla, though, are heavily relying on the algorithms they are writing to convince governments around the world that their cars are safe for the roads. For example, if a car is hurtling down the road towards a barrier which will no doubt kill the occupants of the car, should the vehicle swerve and hit a pedestrian to save the lives inside? Humans don’t often have a choice when they are in this sort of situation, but a computer can think much faster, making it easier for them to take meaningful action in an accident.

Finding The Answers

Of course, though, no one is doubting that these machines need to have some ethics-driven systems in place to make choices like this. Instead, when it comes to the debate surrounding this area, most people are concerned about the way these algorithms will make their decisions. To help with this, MIT has been running a study over the last few years to understand public opinion in this area. Their findings suggest that most people would rather take the route which results in less fatalities, though some argue that it is unfair to put lives in question when they’re not even in the car.

Making Rules Universal

Creating a universal rule book for this sort of system is proving to be a big challenge, and this isn’t set to change soon. Germany, for example, has recently passed a law which will stop car makers from basing their ethics on age, health, and gender, making it hard for companies to find a position to start this whole process. Of course, alongside this, the procedure for those involved in a car collision is usually different from place to place, sparking debate as to how law enforcement will treat accidents of this nature. Obviously, it’s going to take a lot of work before everyone agrees what needs to be considered when a car makes an ethical decision.

To some, the idea of being able to sit back and relax while their car does the work is too exciting to be overshadowed by this sort of debate. No one will be able to take advantage of this technology until certain questions are answered, though, making it critical that governments start working towards reform when it comes to automotive law.

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