Study Says Drivers Prefer Passenger Safety Over Pedestrian Safety When it Comes to Self-Driving Cars

by | Jul 14, 2016

Driverless car technology is expected to help prevent thousands of accidents by removing the factor of human error. But what happens when we leave moral decisions up to a computer? In the event of an impending collision, should self-driving technology preference the safety of its passengers over the safety of pedestrians, or vice versa? That was the question that was recently considered as part of a study conducted by three researchers based in the U.S. and France. The study argues how driverless cars respond to ethical dilemmas will likely dictate their public safety and how widely they are adopted by consumers.

Should a Driverless Car Protect its Passengers at All Costs?

In a twist on the “trolley problem,” a classic scenario in psychological debates, the study presented participants with hypothetical situations in which a fatal crash was unavoidable and asked them how they felt the vehicle should react. Out of 2,000 people surveyed for the study, the majority of people responded that they felt the car should react in the most utilitarian way possible – in other words, in a way which would save the most lives (even if this meant that they or their passengers would be sacrificed to do so). However, on a willingness-to-buy scale, 81 percent felt that they would ultimately prefer to purchase a driverless car that would preserve the lives of passengers at all costs.

Interestingly, participants also indicated that they would be less likely to purchase a self-driving car if the government mandated utilitarian programming that could potentially compromise the safety of a passenger in an unavoidable crash situation. This study has shown that the “not in my backyard” dilemma extends to autonomous vehicles – people want society and manufacturers to do the right thing, but not at their expense. This inconsistency could be a bump in the road when it comes to the transition to autonomous vehicles. Manufacturers will likely be more successful selling self-protective versions of their vehicles in the absence of government regulations.

Protecting Your Rights After a Car Accident

Autonomous vehicles will certainly change how America drives. While they will likely dramatically decrease accidents, it is important to remember that no technology is perfect. If you’ve been hurt in a car accident in Washington DC, Maryland, or Virginia, turn to Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. to consult with a Washington DC car accident lawyer about pursuing compensation. Call our office today at (202) 659-8600 to schedule a complimentary case evaluation.

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