Ok, so I was walking along in mountain view today having a chat with a friend and I turned and ran down the road to get this snap of the first damn self driving car I have seen on the actual roads, actually driving itself with a dude sitting in for safety testing purposes.
Pretty cool, pretty unknown, lots of questions.
Turns out they are pretty new and this article from today shows the beginning of where it gets complicated, when there is a crash!! http://www.businessinsider.com/r-two-rival-self-driving-cars-have-close-call-in-california-2015-6
My dear friend Justin and I were chewing the fat just a couple weeks ago, drinking beer and thinking through the implications of self driving cars, as this is one of the first big consumer facing philosophically problematic scenarios, the first of OH SO MANY to come.
A self driving car will crash at some point, someone will die and there will be out cry in the media but then the stats will bubble up and win out showing that even though it is a tragedy someone died and they will thoroughly investigate, that many lives are being saved everyday because self driving cars are X times better and safer than people drivers.
The problem for me comes when you think about the decision making algorithms that will choose whether to swerve to miss the child on the bike in favor of hitting the granny who google estimated only had 6 weeks left to live based on other personal data they had on her so was for the greater good to do so. big responsibility for a programmer.
See in a manually driven world, we are clear on who to punish, generally the driver who was not paying attention / breaking the rules, rarely ever the manufacturer.
But are we going to send the programmer to prison for writing the algorithm that meant I sat in my self driving car and hit and killed a granny?
Where machines are interacting in our daily lives and taking the risks on our behalf who becomes liable and who is governing the ethics committee by which we instruct the programmers to design the algorithm that giveth and and taketh away the grannies life?
I haven’t really got any answers yet, so keen to hear your ideas, I am sure someone has thought about this and made some rules, but are they good? Are they being designed to defend the corporate structures that are increasing their responsibility for handling risk in daily lives or being designed to serve and free the people?
I don’t know, but I cant wait to get in one, I can tell you that much 🙂