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Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Study on Driverless-Car Ethics Offers a Troubling Look Into Our Values

Caroline Lester
The New Yorker
Originally posted January 24, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

The U.S. government has clear guidelines for autonomous weapons—they can’t be programmed to make “kill decisions” on their own—but no formal opinion on the ethics of driverless cars. Germany is the only country that has devised such a framework; in 2017, a German government commission—headed by Udo Di Fabio, a former judge on the country’s highest constitutional court—released a report that suggested a number of guidelines for driverless vehicles. Among the report’s twenty propositions, one stands out: “In the event of unavoidable accident situations, any distinction based on personal features (age, gender, physical or mental constitution) is strictly prohibited.” When I sent Di Fabio the Moral Machine data, he was unsurprised by the respondent’s prejudices. Philosophers and lawyers, he noted, often have very different understandings of ethical dilemmas than ordinary people do. This difference may irritate the specialists, he said, but “it should always make them think.” Still, Di Fabio believes that we shouldn’t capitulate to human biases when it comes to life-and-death decisions. “In Germany, people are very sensitive to such discussions,” he told me, by e-mail. “This has to do with a dark past that has divided people up and sorted them out.”

The info is here.