The folly of trolleys: Ethical challenges and autonomous vehicles – Brookings Institution

By Team Writer / March 14, 2019

If someone has ever asked you to picture yourself in a scenario where you had the decision to kill one person or five people in order to save a train, then they’ve presented you with “the Trolley Problem”. Many people are using this analogy to illustrate their ethical concerns when it comes to autonomous cars. While this scenario presents two distinct choices with two distinct outcomes, experts argue that autonomous cars cannot relate to this scenario because they cannot possibly have a full understanding of all of their surroundings.

Key Takeaways:

  • The trolley problem is one of the problems that is often raised up about autonomous vehicles. It occurs when someone is presented with two situations with similar potential consequences.
  • The introduction of the trolley problem which seems like a good fit kills all conversations about autonomous vehicles when they are brought up.
  • The solution to any problem, including the trolley problem, is to understand how autonomous vehicles work and to have a grounding in the technology.

“Once we understand how these vehicles work—that is, the mathematics behind their learning—we will see how there are many other design choices that are far more morally important.”

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