Whoever knew that Jeremy Clarkson was capable of saying something thought-provoking? In one of the final episodes of BBC’s Top Gear, Clarkson had an insightful dialogue concerning the future of autonomous vehicles, specifically, how the notion of ethics would be programmed into self-driving vehicles.
Clarkson used the following example to drive home his point: imagine a situation where you’re in a self-driving car and are put into a situation where a crash is unavoidable. Specifically, there are 2 possible outcomes: either your car swerves out of the way of a number of pedestrians crossing the street and crashes into a wall (killing you but saving the pedestrians), or hits the pedestrians (killing them but saving you). Which decision should/will the car make? Crash into the wall, killing you but saving the pedestrians minimizing total loss of life? But who would buy such a vehicle knowing that it was programmed to make decisions that could ultimately kill you? Kill the pedestrians and save you? That’s awfully egotistical.
I did some digging online and found an excellent TED video by Patrick Lin summarizing the ethical dilemma surrounding autonomous vehicles. Driverless vehicles: -1. Go Jeremy!
UPDATE: Apparently even President Obama has been thinking about the ethical implications of self-driving cars. Check out this Wired interview where President Obama and Joi Ito discuss the future of AI.