The Ethical Considerations of Autonomous Vehicles

While California may have passed a law that allows driverless cars to use public roads, many Golden State residents remain unsure about how reliably autonomous vehicle technology will perform in the real world. A team of researchers asked members of the public how they would like driverless cars to behave in a number of emergency situations, and the results show that what people want for others is often very different to what they want for themselves.

The researchers say that more than three quarters of the individuals surveyed held the opinion that autonomous vehicles should make utilitarian decisions. This means that driverless cars should take a pragmatic approach when accidents seem inevitable and respond in a way that minimizes injuries even if doing so would place their occupants in danger. However, most of the respondents also told researchers that they would prefer to travel in cars that placed their safety and the safety of their passengers above all other considerations.

The results of the research, which were published on June 24 in the online journal Science, may be troubling to companies at the forefront of autonomous vehicle technology like Google and Tesla. While the public seems ready to accept that self-driving cars could improve road safety and have a positive impact on the environment, the majority of those surveyed said that they would be reluctant to buy one unless it was willing to sacrifice others.

Personal injury attorneys will likely be paying close attention to accident cases involving self-driving cars. Lawsuits filed on behalf of pedestrians who have suffered injuries after being hit by a car are generally brought against negligent drivers or their insurance companies, but more litigation may be initiated against manufacturers or programmers as autonomous vehicles become more common on the nation's roads.

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