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Would you trust a self-driving car to make ethical decisions

I have three problems with self-driving cars. One is that they represent the dumbing down and lazification of our society; that driving requires too much engagement with the world and is too taxing when you are a dbag who needs to check his/her phone every 5 minutes.

My second issue is that car manufacturers would have to program a utilitarian ethical code into the machine’s decision-making algorithm. It’s a jungle out there, and ordinarily in a collision situation, like a war zone it’s every man for himself – but computer? Everyone’s self-driving cars looking out for the majority best interest may sound good on paper, but if some dumbass is crashing into you, you’ll wish it had your best interest in mind instead, even if it means crashing into more cars.

A final issue is that it will be yet another segment of working class labor that disappears, another portion of the population falling to the wayside: bus drivers, cabbies, and eventually even truckers, who will be left to feed off the orange dregs of trickle-down economics.

What do you guys think? Would you trust one if it was really smart?

My grandfather drove mules for a living; did it for the Army in Belgium in WW1. His wife cooked on a wood stove, washed clothes by hand, in water heated on the wood stove; at least her husband cut the wood. I ride a bicycle or drive a car; I have an automatic device that pipes hot water to my sinks, bath tub, shower! another washes my clothes!!! I don’t have to clean out the outhouse either. Talk about lazy.

Are we going to keep these people from driving? Aren’t they our children or grandchildren?

Would you rather 30K fatalities without self-driving cars or 10K with, even if it meant you’d lose some tiny chance you’d be better off personally?

BTW, the way they’re programmed now they avoid collisions, which means aggressive drivers can cut them off, etc., usually safely. Wouldn’t you like this?

Like mule-drivers and washer-women.

It wouldn’t have to be very smart to be smarter than the texting crowd. As Peter Sagal pointed out, we already have driverless cars.

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Ready or not, driverless cars are coming. At some point in the future, maybe as soon as 10 years, I will be happy to have a driverless car to give me the freedom I would not otherwise have due to old age. Old folks, handicap people, or those that would rather use both hands in other endeavors would benefit from driverless cars.

I wish they were available today. My Father in law has dementia and my mother in law never learned to drive. My wife drives 45 minutes to their home every week to take them grocery shopping. She loves them and doesn’t mind doing it, but it is hard on her to spend a day running their errands when they could do it themselves if they had a driverless car to take them on errands and anywhere else they want to go. If they had a driverless car, they could visit us at our house without us making a 3 hour ride to get them and take them home. There is a valid use for driverless cars.


Computers don’t have ethics. And they don’t have smarts. They only run programs.
Technology is evolving to the point where computers can interact with and react to each other. A wee bit more evolution, and a town full of self-driving cars will probably be a lot safer than a town fully of owner-operated cars. Until someone with an owner-operated car drives into town. And therein lies the limitation. Computers run programs, and their actions and interactions can be predicted. People’s actions cannot.

Of course I’m talking about towns that don’t have blizzards. Or ice storms. Or “black ice”. Or sinkholes. Or a storm surge huge wave on the coastal road. Time will tell how well self-driving cars will adjust to unpredictable events.

The cars ethics will be whatever the programmer puts in. This is a social/ethical/legal discussion that needs to happen.

The total self driving car will probably be relegated to the same category as flying cars: cool, but not practical. Computerized driver-assist cars however will probably become more and more common. Alerting the driver if the car is drifting too near to a lane boundary, braking when something is sensed blocking the road, improved visibilitiy using cameras and other gadgets, those all seem like they could be feasible and practical.

Completely self driving? Maybe, but only on specially constructed roads, where there would probably be a requirement that only self drivers could use.

or those that would rather use both hands in other endeavors

Um ok, not gonna ask what you’re doing in the car @RandomTroll.

a dbag who needs to check his/her phone every 5 minutes.
Are we going to keep these people from driving? Aren’t they our children or grandchildren?

We should, and no, they are not. These people are a couple of levels above scum and need rehab. Phones have replaced religion as the opiate of the masses. If I ever raise a child who is hooked on his or her phone at all times I would treat it as I would an opiate addiction or alcoholism. But that would never happen in the first place because I know how to parent.

movie land? the 5th element. the newer star wars stuff. there are rows and rows of flying cars zooming around in 3 dimensions. forget about a simple 2D world of fixed roads. so what type of decision do you expect to result from your driverless car heading for a collision with a 2nd driverless car? how to stop collision? slow down? stop? will the 33 cars behind you be connected to your cars OS and stop also? your car is moving XX miles per hour in the center lane of a 4 lane highway. you cannot change lanes. you can only speed up or slow down. stopping on a rush hour freeway is not a good thing.

This has been discussed by futurists (science fiction writers!) since the 1930’s and was codified in a book written by Isaac Asimov. They state

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

This may have come from a sci-fi writer but this is taken very seriously by those creating this new technology.

As for:

To be replaced by jobs you haven’t even thought of yet. Every time there is an economic upheaval in the job market, more jobs actually get created that were lost by obsolescence.


Driverless cars scare me! It will make drives even more distracted and turn all the functions over to the car which invites all sorts of accidents since the car is not capable of recognizing every emergency.

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I wonder how they will react to tire blowout in heavy high speed traffic?

Here’s a question - some discussions of shared self-driving cars talk about the gas they’ll save. How? Where? I’d think I’d be using LESS gas when I drive my own car only where I need to go. If I have to summon a car, it has to use more gas, seems to me.

As for the need, I see self-driving cars as a great thing for older drivers. It’s not that they’re necessarily worse drivers, but accidents are more often fatal in old age. Reducing the accident rate would be a major plus. Think of the benefits to 80+ year olds where the family has had to ‘take away the keys’.

+1 to @texases I can see myself there in a couple of decades or so. Plenty of time to work out the bugs. As resistant as I am to this technology because I still love to drive, I can see the day I’ll need it.

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I agree, Mustangman.
Many days I hope to take advantage of good weather and head to the beach but cannot because of medical issues. A self-driving car would be a godsend. But, as you pointed out, it needs some time to develop. It’s truly in its infancy.


more jobs actually get created that were lost by obsolescence.

Oh yeah? The labor market is dwindling my friend. Try telling that to steel workers. America is no longer a country of producers, but consumers. You’re right, the jobs will be replaced. But who will get them? Whoever can produce the cheapest microchips and electronics, and that will be whatever 3rd world country can abuse its workers the most. China is laughing at you as they produce endless piles of crap and you build up greater piles of retail and national debt in order to continue your patronage of their endless piles of crap.

Old GDP growth rates, rising real incomes and higher living standards are not coming back for as long as the eye can see. After 46 years of a free floating dollar, the US economy has reached its saturation level of debt, limits to cost structure, productivity gains and, therefore, global competitiveness. The only reason the dollar isn’t crashing is because it is the de facto global currency – for now.

If you were to ask, “Do you trust people to make ethical decisions when they drive?” I’d answer with a resounding “hell no,” because reaction to a hazard is a quick decision, almost a reflex, not a decision a driver has the time to ponder, considering the ethical issues.

Maybe, if you want to pose an ethical quandary, it should be: Why are opponents of self-driving cars satisfied with the status quo of 30,000 American motor vehicle deaths each year?


I am glad you agree with me that more jobs will be created. This article agrees as well that more jobs will be created and it uses history as their proof.

Automation will out perform those workers, no-hands down. If repetitive manual labor requires 3rd world workers, I’d rather they do it than have my kids sitting at mind-numbing repetitive jobs putting together widgets. I’d rather they be service workers, like a doctor, a vet or computer repairman than unskilled assembly labor. Or skilled tradesmen like tool and die makers, machinists or aircraft A&P mechanic or auto mechanic. I’d much rather have them coding software than making steel.

For unskilled people who can’t pass a urine test for a job, maybe. The percentages of people IN the labor market is the lowest in decades. Since unemployment is in the 4% range, there are jobs in the marketplace but not enough skilled workers to fill them. Heck, there are unskilled jobs, like guest farm workers getting $10.75 and hour in Florida that can’t be filled by local workers. They just won’t do those jobs.

125 years ago Americans argued about these scary new motorcar things and how reliable their horses were over them.
100 years ago America didn’t even have interstate freeways.
50 years ago radio programs started being replaced by television programs
25 years ago cordless phones were popular, but you still needed to be home to get a phone call
Today we are instantaneously arguing with people hundreds or thousands of miles away on devices- some that fit in the palm of our hands- about whether or not a driverless car is safer than someone who isn’t paying attention to driving at all.


I think you are all missing the point of driverless cars. They will not only be safer than the idiots among us, they will be safer than the rest of us also. They will have 360 degree radar, impervious to weather, darkness and inattention. They won’t be driving upset because of boss, spouse children or anything else. We have already reaped the benefits of all the previous safety systems and deaths are starting to creep back up.


If everyone is a service worker, which is what the American economy has been transitioning towards for the last 100 years, then little is produced, and all you do is consume other countres’ junk. That is called a trade deficit, and leads to the situation America is currently in where foreign and potentially hostile (read: China) powers now own so much of the dollar that they can crash it anytime they desire. Give me control of a country’s money supply, and I care not who makes its laws.

A service economy is like a soda. It might taste good at first, but it doesn’t take long to go flat, ie. slowed GDP growth rates, and stagnant or reduced real incomes and living standards. A service economy means trade deficits, which long-term is not sustainable. Long-term trade deficits lead to spiraling debt, stagnant incomes, and a reduced overall money supply that even constant quantitative easing from a central bank can’t fend off. Sound familiar?