Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Autonomous Cars

In Patrick Lin's article about the upcoming release of an autonomous car he discusses many different scenarios that the cars must be programmed to react to.  These cars are self-driving so they need to be programmed for every scenario that could occur.  One of these scenarios is if the car was faced with the decision of crashing into a Mini-Cooper or an SUV, which one would it choose?  The programmers must "tell" the car what to do in that situation.  In my opinion, it should be programmed to crash into the car that would minimize the amount of harm done.  This choice would make it crash into the SUV, since it is larger and the people inside would have more protection surrounding them to decrease the amount of harm done.  Although there could be less people in the Mini-Cooper, you have to look at the amount of protection in the car.

Another scenario is if the car was faced with the decision of hitting a motorcyclist with a helmet or a motorcyclist without a helmet, which would it choose?  In my opinion there are pros and cons to each side.  At first, I thought that you should hit the motorcyclist with the helmet on because the person has more protection than the motorcyclist without the helmet.  However, why should he be punished for doing the right thing?  If you look at it this way, the motorcyclist without the helmet should be hit, because he is not being safe.  Although if you hit the motorcyclist without the helmet, he faces certain death.  Either side that you argue, there are positive aspects and negative aspects.

There is one option to the car where you can have it choose randomly.  The programmers won't develop the software in which it chooses one that it will continuously hit, but rather the car will randomly pick one spur the moment.  This option is no different than a car that has a person behind the wheel because a lot of the time, the person doesn't have enough time to consider the outcomes and weigh their choices so they just choose randomly.  One of the purposes of these cars is to ensure the safety of drivers, so if the car chooses randomly, it could be picking the unsafe option.

One important question is if the car gets in an accident, who is responsible: the driver or the programmer?  In my eyes, they are both at fault.  The driver should still have their eyes on the road, even if they don't have to control the car.  They should have enough control of the car that they could try their best to avoid the accident.  However, it cannot be entirely blamed on them because they didn't program the car to hit the target.  The programmers of the software had to set the car up to hit one or the other, so they have to take some of the blame.  Overall, both the programmers and the driver should take some of the blame, because they both had something to do with the accident.

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