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Monday, April 27, 2020

Drivers are blamed more than their automated cars when both make mistakes

Awad, E., Levine, S., Kleiman-Weiner, M. et al.
Nat Hum Behav 4, 134–143 (2020).


When an automated car harms someone, who is blamed by those who hear about it? Here we asked human participants to consider hypothetical cases in which a pedestrian was killed by a car operated under shared control of a primary and a secondary driver and to indicate how blame should be allocated. We find that when only one driver makes an error, that driver is blamed more regardless of whether that driver is a machine or a human. However, when both drivers make errors in cases of human–machine shared-control vehicles, the blame attributed to the machine is reduced. This finding portends a public under-reaction to the malfunctioning artificial intelligence components of automated cars and therefore has a direct policy implication: allowing the de facto standards for shared-control vehicles to be established in courts by the jury system could fail to properly regulate the safety of those vehicles; instead, a top-down scheme (through federal laws) may be called for.

From the Discussion:

Our central finding (diminished blame apportioned to the machine in dual-error cases) leads us to believe that, while there may be many psychological barriers to self-driving car adoption19, public over-reaction to dual-error cases is not likely to be one of them. In fact, we should perhaps be concerned about public underreaction. Because the public are less likely to see the machine as being at fault in dual-error cases like the Tesla and Uber crashes, the sort of public pressure that drives regulation might be lacking. For instance, if we were to allow the standards for automated vehicles to be set through jury-based court-room decisions, we expect that juries will be biased to absolve the car manufacturer of blame in dual-error cases, thereby failing to put sufficient pressure on manufacturers to improve car designs.

The article is here.