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Will Your Autonomous Car Opt to Kill You to Save a Dog in its Path?

Attack of the Killer Robots

John Gilbert Dec 8, 2015
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Remember that old joke, “you’d like to die like your grandfather, peaceful in his sleep, and not screaming and agitated like all the occupants in his car?”

There are some strong pluses and minuses to the controversial topic of autonomous cars, so lets play devil’s advocate for both sides. The good news is driverless cars will remove the steering wheel from the hands of people that really shouldn’t be driving. You know the type: folks that believe it’s their god-given right to have their own private lane, those who drive as slow as they want; or, how about the ones illegally driving solo in the car pool lane?

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This belligerent type of behavior could be eliminated. The benefit to an autonomous car is the vehicle’s ability to tuck in close behind other cars and maintain a tighter gap in a singular line as opposed to individual human bi-peds that insist on driving four abreast while maintaining sub-legal speeds. Tighter packs of cars driving on our freeways will decrease the need to add new lanes to existing highways, plus make the aerial view for passengers on commercial airlines more aesthetically pleasing. Imagine centrally located computers could control automobiles each identified by a big letter on its roof to group together and spell Welcome to California! The commercial possibilities are endless political messages like vote for Trump, Hillary, or nuclear power is the answer could be sold.

Passenger or pedestrians, who decides which will become a death statistic on a government chart? The California DMV is now attempting to draw up safety regulations for driverless cars. These regulations might or might not dictate when it’s allowable for collision avoidance programs to subject occupants to fatal harm, or make the decision to save the rider and snuff a huddle of pedestrians.

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It started with the automatic transmission; tomorrow won’t be like today. Irreversibly, tomorrow will be populated with robot cars transporting humans that will not know how to drive a manually operated automobile. Will a test lab somewhere in the heights of Berkeley be allowed to resolve the difficult questions, or will it be put into the hands of typically apathetic voters. On every level, future generations will be amazed at the amount of freedom our society once had.

Maybe automobile racing where human drivers are pitted against each other will be replaced by driverless racecars. Imagine how much fun it will be to watch killer robot cars, programmed with aggressive modes, fight to the finish. That said maybe I stumbled onto something. I’ll bet employing autonomous racecars to sort out the bugs will accelerate advancement of the breed just like racing did at the dawn of the automobile.

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