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Ethics and autonomous cars

2018-03-21

A Volvo model Uber-taxi recently hit a woman in Arizona, US. The car was in autonomous mode. According to Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist, Senior Lecturer in Medical Ethics at CRB, this case highlights several of the ethical issues relating to self-driving cars.  

Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist, Senior Lecturer Medical Ethics
Jessica Nihlën Fahlquist, Senior Lecturer

In Swedish public service radio’s P1 ”Studio Ett”, Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist told reporters that regardless of whether development can or should be stopped, we have to reflect on the ethical aspects of handing over responsibility and risks related to driving to technology.

We sometimes assume that technology is value neutral, which means it is neither good nor bad. However, people, develop the algorithms that steer the cars. One dilemma that the car can be faced with is the choice between running over a small child, or a group of five elderly people.

According to utilitarianism. It is always better to save more people, but many of us would find it difficult to accept that a car hits a small child instead. In addition, Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist says that we do not know what the long term consequences of introducing autonomous cars on a large scale could be. This means that these are only some of the many questions we have to consider before handing over responsibility for traffic safety to self-driving cars.

Listen (in Swedish)