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'Whose Life Should Your Car Save?'

'This dilemma was explored in a series of studies that we
recently published in the journal Science. We presented people with
hypothetical situations that forced them to choose between
"self-protective" autonomous cars that protected their passengers at
all costs, and “utilitarian” autonomous cars that impartially
minimized overall casualties, even if it meant harming their
passengers. (Our vignettes featured stark, either-or choices between
saving one group of people and killing another, but the same basic
trade-offs hold in more realistic situations involving gradations of

‘A large majority of our respondents agreed that cars that
impartially minimized overall casualties were more ethical, and were
the type they would like to see on the road. But most people also
indicated that they would refuse to purchase such a car, expressing a
strong preference for buying the self-protective one. In other words,
people refused to buy the car they found to be more ethical.’

Idunno. I’m not into self-driving cars and I’m not sure I want a programmer making life and death decisions for me. What pilot for example wouldn’t do everything they could to avoid crashing into a residential area at the cost of their own life? What driver really wouldn’t make the split second decision to avoid a school bus even putting themselves in peril. Its just something you don’t think about but when the time comes you just do it based on the immediate situation. If you have to try and program a computer though its endless decision trees. Tree or head on, school bus or paddy wagon, house or garage, playground or ?, just endless what ifs. That’s where defensive driving comes in to avoid all those endless decisions of peril.

Is anyone really paying much attention to the NYT anymore though? There reputation is pretty much in the can at this point.

Truck drivers face similar ethical dilemmas. Twice in my career I have faced the same dilemma, staying on the road and running over and killing a car driver that did something incredibly stupid or leaving the road. Both times I was bobtailing with a single axle tractor. They take a long time and distance to stop because all the weight of the engine is over the front axle where the much smaller brakes are and the back wheels have huge brakes because they have to stop the weight of the trailer on them. The first time a car pulled up to a stop sign, stopped and pulled out directly in front of me. Rather than hit him I turned right across a ditch an spun harmlessly around a telephone pole in an open field.

The second time, two pickups passed me on the NY Thruway and cut in front of me. The first pickup inexplicably stopped in the right lane just as the second pickup pulled across the nose of the tractor. The driver of the second one slammed on his brakes and I was sliding right at him with my rear wheels locked. The first pickup saw this happening and got scared and pulled over on the shoulder I was aiming for to not hit the second one. Again I turned right so as not to kill the pickup driver with my 16,000 lb tractor. This time I was not quite lucky, the back wheels clipped a drain culvert and the first clue that I had rolled over was the center windshield post twisting and the glass exploding as the roof came down on the seat. The seats metal back pierced the seat cushion and my are but somehow it did not stop my dive under the right side of the dash. I had to go to the hospital to get the back of my arm sewn up and it was 2 1/2 weeks before I could walk normally.

I have always felt that a professional driver of something as large and heavy as a tractor trailer had a duty to protect the motoring public. It really upsets me when I read about a truck losing its brake or just being unable to stop and killing multiple people. There are other things you can hit and if it is dangerous to you ,you just have to take that risk.


I’d go for saving myself and my family. The question is a lot like asking how fast i would run if a lion was chasing a crowd I’m in. Do I run a fast as I can, or only as fast as the slowest member of the group? I’ll run as fast as I can and hope that the lion takes the slowest runner. I think everyone would.

Self preservation is a pretty strong motivator. So is family. The car makers are in a quandary, whom do they choose? The PC answer is to not kill the child walking across in front of the car. The answer the buyer wants is Me First. Darn tough spot to be in. They get sued either way. Questions like these WILL slow the adoption of this technology. You think Takata has a sword hanging overhead? THIS is a far larger sword, IMHO!

A certain segment of society wants to give the responsibility for many things over to someone or something else. Driving is one. Many kids wait to get their driver’s licenses until they have no other transportation choice. 40 years ago, my friends and I couldn’t wait until we got our licenses. Why is that?? Are kids being taught to avoid responsibility? I don’t know, I don’t have kids. Can anyone enlighten me?

I will take my chances and preserve some one else’s life. Coincidentally I was talking to Jack Thompson, my golf guru last weekend, and martial arts was brought up. He owns Transcendental golf.

I told him I was a brown belt in Tae Kwan Do, but did not go for black belt because up until that point it was mild contact, gloves boots, chest protector, but black belt was full contact, and I did not want to ruin someones knee or life to win a stupid match.

He called it cosmic consciousness for the greater good, was getting clubs regripped so we talked for a half hour or so, I was going to go with oversize grips, he looked at my hands, said you have boxers hands, do you want to go right?

No I said, I go right enough as is, he suggested regular grips, as I was regripping some of my dad’s graphite shaft irons.

There is a lot more to any question if you ask the right person.

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Not to drag politics into this, but you’re likely to see a correlation between liberals and those who believe in minimizing overall casualties and a correlation between conservatives and those who would refuse to buy such a car. I see the merits of both arguments, so this isn’t a dig against either position, just an acknowledgment of the outlooks we associate with political positions. My former colleague who specializes in political psychology could explain it better, but I can find statistics to support my position if push comes to shove.

It therefore shouldn’t come as a surprise that I support minimizing damage for all.

As a motorcyclist, one of my biggest gripes with other drivers is that many choose not to dedicate their full attention to driving while they manipulate their 4,000 pound vehicles at high speeds. This is why I support autonomous vehicles, because they couldn’t possibly be any worse than human drivers. Many people would mourn their loss of personal control, but if I had it my way, I would be giving up control already by utilizing mass transit if it were available where I live. It’s easy to spot a control fresk, because they want control regardless of whether they benefit from having control (and as far as I know, this applies to nobody who frequents this website).

With that said, this reminds me of the Trolly Problem*, a similarly complex ethical question that makes it difficult to weigh one option over another, and my take on the Trolly problem is that there is no right answer or wrong answer, because every option has downsides.

Not familiar with the trolley problem, but laid down my bike 2 times both due to a car turning right in front of me. Time 1 walk away and have a few scraped up parts no contact, the other time walk away bike slid under the car, a few scraped up parts but not responsible for damage to the car, including the dent in the door where I hit it.

Their reputation is not in the the can, as far as I’m concerned

And there’s plenty more, where I come from


We absolutely have the same biggest gripe. I add to that driving in a chemically altered state, regardless of the chemical that altered it. The former, while I believe to be responsible for the most accidents by far, is tough to change, but IMHO we could go a whole lot farther in controlling the latter. We’re simply not willing. We’ve had numerous threads on drunk driving, so I’ll stop here on that subject.

I’m still undecided regarding autonomous vehicles. For me it’s too early to know whether the dangers of having something that might enable/encourage complacency will be outweighed by the benefits of reducing the human variable in the equation. Perhaps having a different drivers licenses for those who drive autonomous vehicles and perhaps different colored plates would help alleviate my fear of someone who hasn’t driven a driver-controlled vehicle ever (or for years) getting behind the wheel of one and driving away on our streets. Perhaps too restricting automated cars to only specific categories of drivers would reduce my fears also.

IMHO there’s still a lot to learn and a lot to think about before allowing automated cars to roam freely on the streets and highways. The technology will develop to the extent of not needing a driver in the near future, but just because a car CAN drive itself does not always mean that it SHOULD! :fearful:

The Trolly problem is a no brainer to me, you have to pull the lever. However the problem was stated poorly. There was no indication that the single person was unable to move. To show how inaccurate generalization are, I have been a registered Conservitave since Nelson Rockefeller was Governor of NY. My views of ethical questions are based on a belief in personal responsibility.

I think Liberals are well intentioned but would agonize and wring their hands until all 5 people were dead.

Upon further thought the best answer for the Trolly problem is pull the lever halfway and send the train off the track.

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So, if I, in a drunk stupor, stepped in front of your autonomous car which is going 50 mph, you would want it programmed to avoid me and drive into a concrete abutment? Brave talk…but talk’s cheap.

Not a problem for me, yes I would accept that. chances are if I was in the autonomous car I was drunk also

This is getting too deep for me tonight but you did get me thinking of ethics. In our ethics classes we talked about doing the greatest good in a particular situation and I guess I abide by that, be it lib or con. However the problem as I see the nanny state group think socialist view is that overall in the long run, it does not produce the greatest good because it robs people of the very important self-respect, joy of achievement and accomplishment, and self-reliance among others. So in the end, it destroys people. Not that we shouldn’t care, and help people, but draw the line before they become dependent. Tough love has a place.

I remember years ago, my three cousins lived with my aunt (their widow mother) well into their 20’s and spent their days bowling, etc. She was a tough German and gave them 30 days to find jobs and get out of the house. Tough love. All three got good jobs and have been very very successful.

Sorry for going off track but that’s where I’m coming from. So yeah, avoid the bus and hit the tree.

I’m pretty liberal

But I’m also proud of the work I do. I work hard, and get paid a fair wage

I don’t get welfare or any other kind of handouts

Even though I’m pretty liberal, I loathe and despise some of my colleagues who are working the system, claiming sick days, when they’re at home drinking beer, or working off the latest hangover. And this goes on continuously, not just occasionally.

I have plenty of self-respect, joy of achievement and accomplishment, self-reliance, etc.

Even though I’m pretty liberal

I don’t think they’re at odds with each other

And I also don’t think I’m a rare exception

Theoretically . . . even if Bernie Sanders had become president, in some alternate universe, I don’t think that would have qualified as a “nanny state”

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Socialism has been good for the U.S.A. The largest socialist organization in the world is the U.S. Defense Department. Our transportation infrastructure is pretty socialist, excluding the privatization of toll roads. (Did you like how I worked car talk into my response?)

The belief that socialism is incompatible with democracy is a myth. That would be communism, not socialism. In fact, there are a lot of democratic socialist countries around the world, like Canada, Denmark, Sweden, and Italy, for example.

What you have stated is partisan propaganda meant to demonize a system that works for many countries around the world. Looking at world history, what I’m seeing is that no country can maintain a pure free market economy, and no country can maintain a pure socialist economy. All of the different types of economies have been migrating to the middle, because free markets are great for things like cars (there, I did it again), and other consumer goods, but the free markets have failed in sectors like healthcare/health insurance, public safety, and prisons.

The great thing about the U.S.A. is that we aren’t tied to any one system as the result of a dogmatic belief in one or the other that borders on religious faith. We can reform our system as we go, fixing market failures by socializing, and privatizing government functions that can benefit from being private, like power generation and waste disposal, which benefit from economy of scale by allowing private companies to serve more than one jurisdiction.

In summary, I’m not a fan of socialism or free markets. I believe we should use the one that works best for the circumstances. I don’t think our military would be any better if we privatized it, and I don’t think our consumer goods (especially cars) would be any better if they were produced by government workers.


The safety net is socialism, the ability to charge quantum dollars for an epipen is capitalism. Used to be live and let live, now live and let die.

Hi there, discussion is drifting a bit from cars. Could you please bring it back around? Thanks.


Bringing it back to cars . . . yet at the same time making some comments about decidedly NON-capitalist societies

When I was working at the depot, one of my colleagues came from east Germany

He said he had to wait so long to get a Trabant, by the time his turn came up, the car he got was older than he was . . . !

Talk about late and NOT worth the wait

Better than no car, I suppose . . . that’s the best way to look at it

Amazingly enough, those Trabants that have survived have now attained a sort of “classic car” status, and there are guys who pride themselves on keeping them running, AND bringing them back to stock specs. The ones that were never modified have a higher value than the others, as with pretty much all classics

Right after reunification, people couldn’t ditch those Trabants fast enough. Everybody wanted a VW, Ford, Opel, etc.

In some cases the grand prize in some contests was a Trabant. Somebody apparently thought they were killing 2 birds with 1 stone. My mom won one in some kind of school contest . . . she was a teacher . . . and told the prize commitee she’s not going to accept the prize, give it to somebody else!