When discussing self-driving cars or autonomous cars, people often bring up their concerns about safety.
An example of this is the false choice that people often present when they talk about how a self-driving cars.
They will ask, “Well, if faced with the choice of driving over, and potentially killing a human being or running the car into a wall and quite possibly killing or seriously hurting the driver, which choice would the computer on the self-driving car make?”
Although this is a ridiculous situation, many people bring this one up as a way of pointing out how computers are not to be trusted and proof that self-driving cars .are a hazard to human life and all things we hold near and dear
What people often fail to realize is that most airplanes are run by computers. As are many of the mass transit systems such as Metro Vancouver’s Skytrain system. Ferries and countless boats, and rail systems worldwide are also controlled by computers. They are basically “self-driving” vehicles.
What has been proven time and time again is that computers actually make better and more rational decisions than most humans.
For example, it is pretty easy to argue that the most dangerous place to walk or drive is the school drop-off zone.
People dropping off their kids make terrible decisions. They are all too often hurrying to get their kids to school and then getting from their kid’s school and back to their workplace.
To do this they very often make irrational and very unsafe decisions. They will often speed through school zones, disregard red lights or travel the wrong direction through school zones. And when it comes to the actual drop-off, they don’t care if it says no stopping. They stop wherever they want to whether it is a bike lane, firelane, or simply a no stopping zones.
They will break any and every rule of the road in order to get their kids to school. No matter if they are putting other children’s lives at risk.
On the other hand, a self-driving car, a car controlled by a computer will see a red light and stop. It doesn’t matter if you are in a hurry. Self-driving cars know that a red lightning means to stop because that’s the safe, logical, and rational thing to do.
Unlike a human who is more concerned about their selfish interests than the safety of the other people on the road.
So let’s circle back to the initial situation posed by those who do not trust the computer in a self-driving car. The situation where the car has a choice of mowing down a human or running into a wall.
That is an interesting situation. I wonder which choice the computer would make? How does a computer programmer deal with that choice?
But before we answer the “what would a self-driving car do” question, let me ask you – what would a human in control of a vehicle would do in that situation?
Would YOU choose to hit the child or run into the wall potentially killing yourself and your family members?