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New technology raises questions about traffic accident liability and ethics

How much responsibility can we delegate to computer systems?

This is a question stemming from all the technological developments affecting our lives, ranging from our experiences on social media sites like Facebook to the hours we spend on the road.

Recently, Business Insider published an article with an eye-catching and alarming headline: “Self-driving cars are already deciding who to kill.”

Although self-driving cars are expected to reduce the rates of traffic accidents caused by human error, they raise troubling questions about responsibility on the road. The article discusses how a self-driving car might make decisions in a situation where it would need to hit someone or something – choosing, let’s say, between a pedestrian and another vehicle.

What criteria will car manufacturers use to determine the self-driving car’s choices? How would the car balance the safety of its own drivers and passengers with the safety of pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles?

Meanwhile, what role do the human drivers play in these decisions? They’ll be sitting behind the wheel of their self-driving car and will hopefully jump in and take control when needed. Will they have enough time to act? Will they even know to act, or will they complacently hand over the decision to their car? There may also be an interesting situation where the self-driving car was set to make a safer decision, but the human driver prevented it from acting. Ultimately, drivers need to be held responsible for how they act with their vehicles.

Aren’t these only hypothetical questions?

At this point, for many drivers, these questions are hypothetical. However, vehicles are increasingly taking on a variety of automated features, and we’re already seeing self-driving cars in operation.

These are issues we need to consider now. The tension between human control and responsibility on the one hand, and computer programming on the other, will intensify with increasingly sophisticated technologies.

Furthermore, we need to consider what responsibility manufacturers share in any traffic accidents involving self-driving vehicles, or vehicles containing other automated features. Manufacturers and programmers are deciding how cars should make choices in an emergency situation; if the decisions are unethical or ill-considered in other ways, or if the technology backfires, to what extent are they liable?

To find out more about these issues, feel free to follow us on Facebook, as we use our Facebook page to discuss important road safety topics. Should you suffer a traffic accident, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can be reached at 844-Take-MyCase or at our website, www.844TakeMyCase.com.

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