There's a real possibility that self driving cars become more than just a high tech novelty and they start changing the market.
As seen in Logan, self driven commercial freight might be among the first. This makes sense to me. The automotive industry might be harder to overtake, but truckers aren't highly qualified. Anybody can get a CDL.
Also in the movie, we see that the trucks aren't perfect. One causes a large accident, and sets spooked horses running frantically across the highway.
Sam Harris has questions about the fundamental flaw of a technology that is expected to take lives into its own hands autonomously existing when it has to make a choice between one life or another.
If a car is hurdling towards a mass of people on the side of the road through some mistake caused by road conditions, should it veer towards a nearby ditch where it may endanger its passengers?
That's just one example of this. I've spoken with my friend about this a bit, and we've talked about Asimov's laws of robotics, which I think are a good starting point. As far as I know, there's four laws. Feel free to add if I've missed any:
- A robot cannot harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm.
- A robot cannot harm a human, or through inaction allow a human to come to harm, except where this would conflict with the zeroth law.
- A robot must obey any orders given to it by a human, except where this would conflict with the zeroth or first laws.
- A robot must do everything it can to protect itself, except where this would conflict with the zeroth, first, or second laws.
Under this simple system, we already have our automated cars choosing to save a group of lives over one life. Discussion about the worth of elderly lives versus children's lives I think is unimportant.
No company should be building machines that prioritize police over civilians or civilians over criminals. Nobody over 60 is getting in the Nissan they know cares more about everyone that's not in the car than it does it's passenger. The job of the machine is to make unbiased choices between saving one life or two. And it should always pick two.
But one-for-one choices are going to likely be determined by factors like what action is the easiest to perform at X miles per hour. Of course it makes the most sense that the vehicle itself is at the bottom of its own list of priorities. It's a tool that can be easily replaced.
But there's one thing I've not mentioned yet, and that's the processing speed of the on board computer. If self driving cars prove incapable of making split second decisions because they take their sweet time analyzing, we won't want to ride them.
Rather interested in philosophy and ethics, the programming part is where my knowledge is lacking. I can assume some basic facts. You'd have to make space in the vehicle for a computer, some kind of image recognition software would need to tell what's a human. Perhaps pets and whatnot could also be included.
And maybe it wouldn't be unreasonable to think since the passengers don't need to look out the windshield, that it could be replaced with a widescreen TV, or some other ancillary features.
Could we bridge the gap in knowledge here, and somebody give me an idea of whether this kind of thing is even possible?