What Autonomous Cars Can Teach Us About Driving - The Big Picture

"Patrick Lin is director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and he constructs grisly thought experiments like the one above to highlight the fundamental issue facing the deployment of autonomous vehicles on our roads. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce the incidences of death and injury on our roads, ease congestion, and reduce emissions. The problem is not the capability of autonomous vehicle technology. It's deciding how that capability should be used.

In the crash scenario outlined above, any consequent death would be regarded as the result of an instinctual panicked move on the part of the driver, with no forethought or malice. But what if that death was the result of behaviors programmed into an autonomous vehicle by an automaker's software coder in San Jose or Shanghai? "That looks more like premeditated homicide," Lin says bluntly."