Should Self-Driving Cars Hit a Pedestrian to Save the Driver?

There are a lot of questions researchers, engineers, and the general public are asking about the future of self driving cars. One of the more crucial ethical questions is: Should your driverless car hit a pedestrian to save the driver’s life? Well, a new research study shows that what people really want is to ride in an autonomous car that puts its passengers first, even if that means running a pedestrian over. 

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In a recent issue of Science Magazine, a group of computer scientists and psychologists conducted several online surveys of United States residents, last summer and fall, which asked people how they think self-driving vehicles should behave. The survey results showed that respondents generally thought self-driving cars should be programmed to make decisions for the greater good, unless their own lives are at stake.

The New York Times writes that “through a series of quizzes that present unpalatable options that amount to saving or sacrificing yourself- and the lives of fellow passengers who may be family members- to spare others, the researchers not surprisingly, found that people would rather stay alive.”

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As autonomous vehicles come closer and closer to the mainstream, serious ethical and moral questions like the one above are becoming an important factor in the manufacturing of self-driving cars. Should cars be programmed with a degree of mortality in them, depending on what consumers want? Should the government step in and mandate that all self-driving cars have the same value of protecting the greater good, even if that means putting its passenger’s lives at risk? 

“Is it acceptable for an autonomous vehicle to avoid a motorcycle by swerving into a wall, considering that the probability of survival is greater for the passengers in the car than for the rider of the motorcycle? Should autonomous vehicles take the ages of the passengers and pedestrians into account?” Jean-Francios Bennefon, of the Toulouse School of Economics in France, wrote.

Some researchers believe that teaching machines ethics may not be the best idea. “If you assume that the purpose of A.I. is to replace people, then you will need to teach the car ethics. It should rather be a partnership between the human and the tool, and the person should be the one who provides ethical guidance,” Amitai Etzioni, a Sociologist at George Washington University argued. 


Unfortunately, deadly accidents involving pedestrians take place every day. Even if the collision isn't fatal, the injuries sustained can be long-term and may not even present themselves until later down the road. If you or somebody you know has been in a motor vehicle collision involving a pedestrian, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC. Our attorneys will work alongside you to help identify any benefits you may be entitled to under Michigan law. Call us today, at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation.