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Autonomous Car Ethics: If a Crash Is Unavoidable, What Does It Hit? 800

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-that-volvo-looked-at-me-funny dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Patrick Lin of California Polytechnic State University explores one of the ethical problems autonomous car developers are going to have to solve: crash prioritization. He posits this scenario: suppose an autonomous car determines a crash is unavoidable, but has the option of swerving right into a small car with few safety features or swerving left into a heavier car that's more structurally sound. Do the people programming the car have it intentionally crash into the vehicle less likely to crumple? It might make more sense, and lead to fewer fatalities — but it sure wouldn't feel that way to the people in the car that got hit. He says, '[W]hile human drivers may be forgiven for making a poor split-second reaction – for instance, crashing into a Pinto that's prone to explode, instead of a more stable object – robot cars won't enjoy that freedom. Programmers have all the time in the world to get it right. It's the difference between premeditated murder and involuntary manslaughter.' We could somewhat randomize outcomes, but that would lead to generate just as much trouble. Lin adds, 'The larger challenge, though, isn't thinking through ethical dilemmas. It's also about setting accurate expectations with users and the general public who might find themselves surprised in bad ways by autonomous cars. Whatever answer to an ethical dilemma the car industry might lean towards will not be satisfying to everyone.'"
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Autonomous Car Ethics: If a Crash Is Unavoidable, What Does It Hit?

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  • A bunch of nuns? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bongo (13261) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:23AM (#46937445)

    I'm reminded of Michael Sandel's televised series on ethics.

    If you could stop a runaway train from going over a ravene, by pulling a lever, thus saving 300 people, but the lever sent the train down a different track on which 3 children were playing, what do you do?

    Somehow, involving innocents seems to change the ethical choices. You're no longer just saving the most lives, but actively choosing to kill innocent bystanders.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:37AM (#46937495)

      The kids are playing on a fucking railtrack, for fuck's sake. If they can't get out of the way in time, then they deserve what they get.

    • Bad example (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why do poeple always give such easy examples when asking this question?

      Of course you save the 300 people! There's probably a lot more innocent people than 3 in that group of 300... You'd have to be very stupid to save 3 over 300 or too lazy to think about it and you make a random decision.

      The question should be more like this:
      On one track there's 10 escaped criminals and the other is your wife with son and another child in the belly.

      That's a decision you might have to think about, but most people would easi

    • Re:A bunch of nuns? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by something_wicked_thi (918168) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:52AM (#46937543)

      Actually, this raises a more interesting question (at least to me) which your little thought experiment approaches. What if my autonomous car decides that the action to take that is likely to cause the least harm is to kill the driver? For example, what if the car has the opportunity to swerve off the side of a mountain road and drop you 1000 feet onto some rocks to avoid a crash that would have killed far more people than simply you? Is my autonomous car required to act in my own best interest, or should it act in the best interests of everyone on the road?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'd never have a car that did that. Me and mine are number one priority. All other priorities are secondary.

      • by bickerdyke (670000) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:06AM (#46937599)

        But what if the driver of the other car, that will survive by steering your car over the cliff, would become the father of the next Hitler?

        A car will never have enough data to make a "right" descision in such a situation. Even the example from the intro is an invalid one as for a morally sound descision, you'd need to know how many passengers (and perhaps even WHICH passengers) are in those cars. Family of 5? Single guy with cancer anyway? And such an alogorith would mean assigning an individual (monetary or any dimensionless number - no difference) value to a human life. And then you've left the field of ethical behaviour quite a while ago.

        Live with imperfect descissions, as you never will be able to make the perfect one. So just stick to the usual heuristics: If you can't avoid both obstacles, Avoid the one that's closer. even if you hit the other one, you'll have a split second longer to brake. THAT might make the differnce between life and death.

      • Re:A bunch of nuns? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by N1AK (864906) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:14AM (#46937637) Homepage
        Now this question I like, it's far more nuanced than the original one. I know I would buy a car with a bias towards keeping me alive (not at any cost) and that bias would likely get even stronger if I had family members in the car! But how plausibly can a car judge whether keeping me and my 2 year old infant alive is more or less important than the unknown occupants of another car?

        Now a really difficult situation would be, what should the computer do if another car is going to crash but your car could minimise loss of life by doing something that would harm or kill you? In this situation your car isn't the cause of the accident, nor perhaps even would be involved. Should your car intervene,potentially killing you, for the good of society as a whole?
        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:13AM (#46937867)

          Should your car intervene,potentially killing you, for the good of society as a whole?

          No. Just, no.

          If your car "intervenes in an accident", then you car is programmed to cause an accident under certain conditions. Just no.

      • by craznar (710808)

        I think self preservation has got us as a species a long way, it also is the best mechanism currently available for keeping the roads as safe as they are. I don't see any reason to change this just because the 'gizmo' that does it changes.

        Once you start having 20 cars each trying to work out what combination of movements results in the least casualties - they will all probably just stop and turn their engines off.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by CastrTroy (595695)
          This makes a lot of sense. If we wanted to maximize safety, we wouldn't all be driving around in vehicles that weigh a couple thousand pounds. That's a lot of energy to get rid of in a short time in the event of an accident. Cars make sense for long trips or when you have a lot of stuff to carry, but going back and forth to work could be done in much smaller and lighter vehicles. You could easily build an enclosed recumbent bike with a small engine that would get both amazing gas mileage and be safe if all
          • by Dutch Gun (899105)

            if all the other vehicles on the road were similarly sized.

            Isn't that particular condition about as realistic as asking for force-fields and inertial dampers?

            Besides, we already have tiny cars, motorcycles, and mopeds available for purchase. I'd postulate that most people don't buy them because they still need a full sized vehicle for the occasional long-haul trip hauling a bunch of stuff or a group of people. So, it has to be your *second* vehicle. That tends to negate potential cost savings in gas or purchase price. As an added bonus, since everyone else out

      • by irp (260932) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:13AM (#46937873)

        Actually, this raises a more interesting question (at least to me) which your little thought experiment approaches. What if my autonomous car decides that the action to take that is likely to cause the least harm is to kill the driver? For example, what if the car has the opportunity to swerve off the side of a mountain road and drop you 1000 feet onto some rocks to avoid a crash that would have killed far more people than simply you? Is my autonomous car required to act in my own best interest, or should it act in the best interests of everyone on the road?

        Your autonomous car? :-)

        It will be a Google car. Partly paid by ads and data collected while used. As such it should - of course - behave in the best interest of the real costumers. I.e. not you! :)

      • Re:A bunch of nuns? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:40AM (#46938003) Homepage

        The simplest solution, and the one that I imagine most autonomous car manufacturers will take, is to avoid the question entirely.

        When an accident is inevitable the car will simply try to stop as quickly as possible. It won't make any attempt to swerve or select a target. It's only consideration will be stopping the car as quickly as possible. It's a sound tactic from a legal point of view. Unless the car itself made a mistake leading to the accident any resulting injuries are someone else's fault.

        Ethically stopping is the right thing to do too. The car can't predict other people's or other car's reactions. If it swerves towards them they might take evasive action as well, causing even more carnage. In the case of a choice between the driver's life and other people's lives it is almost certainly going to be the case that a human driver would have chosen themselves, and the accident was probably caused by the other people anyway (since autonomous cars drive very conservatively). It really is hard to imagine a situation where the car could be blamed for simply braking.

        • by Ash Vince (602485) *

          When an accident is inevitable the car will simply try to stop as quickly as possible. It won't make any attempt to swerve or select a target. It's only consideration will be stopping the car as quickly as possible. It's a sound tactic from a legal point of view. Unless the car itself made a mistake leading to the accident any resulting injuries are someone else's fault.

          Yup. Since this is the recommended approach to drivers at present anyway, especially here in the UK where I live.

          If you try to swerve and avoid a major collision and have a minor collision with an innocent party in a different lane you are probably going to end up having to pay for the damage to their car out of your insurance. You are legally basically expected to try and stop, but if you are unable to in time then to just pile on in to whatever pulled out into your lane and claim on their insurance. Of co

  • It's simple (Score:5, Funny)

    by Required Snark (1702878) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:25AM (#46937451)
    Just run the car into the nearest programmer.
  • by ei4anb (625481) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:25AM (#46937453)
    The decision should be based on the common good and that is not always the worst for the occupants. Remember that the CPU in the other cars will also be evaluating the best strategy to take. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... [wikipedia.org]
    • by jrumney (197329)
      In that case, the answer is to trick the smaller car into swerving into the heavier car, or vice-versa, leaving space for your car to squeeze past.
  • Options would have to be costed. Many things would feed into that. The problem of course is that for all of those costings, probability multiplied by survivability does not produce a linear outcome of quality of life value; you could assign a value of harm to each individual present, but you could not get a meaningful figure by summation.

    • by Zocalo (252965) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:57AM (#46937557) Homepage
      This notion kind of cropped up in last weekend's episode of "Continuum" where a next of kin was informed of a crash by an actuary in terms of write downs, compensation, loss adjustments and so on. Given the way insurers tend to operate and how in bed they are with the legal profession I can see that's exactly how this would go in the long run; an evaluation designed to produce the lowest price tag for those that ultimately get to pay the financial/legal bill. Looking at the problem another way, that means the structural integrity of the two cars in the example is probably moot; if the more structurally sound car is an expensive vehicle with a lone occupant owning a huge life insurance policy and the other is a decrepit bus full of uninsured kids, then it's probably not a good day to be one of the kids... or the driver of the car that crashes into them.
  • Simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:28AM (#46937461)

    Slam the brakes on and don't swerve either way. It's by no means optimal, but as far as lawsuits are concerned, it's much easier to defend "the car simply tried to stop as soon as possible" than "the car chose to hit you because it didn't want to hit someone else".

    • by JosKarith (757063) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:45AM (#46937531)
      Ping both cars and head for the one with most insurance...
      • Re:Simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Wootery (1087023) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:22AM (#46937663)

        You joke, but, like the hit the best protected car policy, it would serve to punish the most safety-conscious, whilst still making some sense on short-term utilitarian grounds.

        • Re:Simple answer (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Your.Master (1088569) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:10AM (#46938195)

          Here's a variation on that theme which works for insurance but doesn't work for the best-protected-car scenario:

          Swerve to hit the guy with less insurance, and charge the balance of the insurance payment after the shitty-insurance runs out to the car that was deliberately *not* hit in this scenario (this is assuming there wasn't a clear "fault" with one of the cars involved that would mean that guy gets the full charge).

          Thus the safety-conscious car is strictly in a safer situation, and the monetary difficulty is no worse than a version that deliberately crashed into high-insurance cars and may be as little as nothing. In effect, instead of paying a lump sum to be made whole after an accident, the insurance pays a lump sum to avoid getting into an accident in the first place.

          • by chihowa (366380) *

            But what happens the second time the safety-conscious car is deliberately avoided, or the n-th time? In order to keep up with these payments, the policy holder is going to face increasing rates due to no action of his own. With the current insurance scheme, the payout is limited to the value of the car and damage from accidents decreases the value, limiting the total policy payout.

            Your scheme sounds like a shakedown: "How much are you willing to pay to not be deliberately crashed into?"

    • by gmhowell (26755)

      In addition, more traction will go towards braking, possibly lessening the force of impact.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Slam the brakes on and don't swerve either way. It's by no means optimal, but as far as lawsuits are concerned, it's much easier to defend "the car simply tried to stop as soon as possible" than "the car chose to hit you because it didn't want to hit someone else".

      Actually, I think that IS the solution. Because an autonomous car should be designed to drive safely and keep a distance. Which means not following the car in front too close that there's no way it can brake safely should it stop suddenly (and by

  • It really does not matter. Car manufacturer will get sued anyway by family of whoever got hit.
    • So the solution that ends up getting implemented is that the autonomous car will take whatever course of action that will minimize costs, which will typically be crash into whichever car contains the occupants with the least total wealth.
  • Screw other people (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cyfun (667564) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:34AM (#46937487) Homepage

    Let's be honest. The job of YOUR car is to keep YOU safe, so the smaller car is probably the better bet as it will have less inertia and cause you less harm. Sure, the most important law of robotics is to protect human life... but if it's going to prioritize, it should probably start with its owner.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PhilHibbs (4537)

      Cars have to be designed with the interests of the road-using population in mind. If you want your car to disregard everyone else's interests in favour of your own, then you should not be allowed to use public roads as you are a dangerous sociopath.

    • by lannocc (568669)

      Let's be honest. The job of YOUR car is to keep YOU safe...

      And I foresee much competition on this level and a premium cost for the vehicle most likely to save its owner in a multi-party accident scenario.

    • by HyperQuantum (1032422) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:44AM (#46937753) Homepage

      Screw other people

      And this is what is wrong with the world.

      Let's turn the situation around: suppose you and your children are walking on the street. Will you still prefer the autonomous car to protect it's single driver at all costs and kill you and your children instead? And then imagine how many autonomous cars will be on the road in the future, all with that same logic built-in...

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:39AM (#46937511)
    The whole assumption that we should be discussing this for autonomous cars is a bit bizarre. There are millions and millions of cars driven by people, so we should discuss for them first.

    And the article is a bit stupid because it forgets a few things: One, a crash with a bigger car is worse _for me_. Second, it's unlikely that two other drivers made mistakes simultaneously, so it would make a lot more sense to crash into the car whose driver caused the problem.
  • by ColaMan (37550) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @05:52AM (#46937545) Homepage Journal

    It communicates to both cars and tells them to execute emergency maneouvers to make enough room. Failing that,, all three calculate a vector that imparts minimal g-forces to all occupants.

  • by AC-x (735297) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:16AM (#46937647)

    Until 100% of cars on the road are self driving, it would seem to me that the best response would be to simply slam the breaks without changing course. Trying to purposefully swerve into another car could cause the human drivers (even cars not involved in the crash) to also swerve and possibly cause even more collisions.

  • by blackest_k (761565) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:19AM (#46937653) Homepage Journal

    There are very few "accidents" just people taking stupid risks. Maintain a safe distance, ie enough manouvering room so you don't join an accident, don't overtake when you can't see the end of the manouvere e.g going up hill or on a bend. Stop when necessary. Procede with caution sometimes you might want to turn off the radio open a window and listen. Use your indicators. Drive within your lights or as conditions allow. Don't be an asshole.

    Sometimes you will come across assholes on the road it is best to give them a wide birth even stop and pull over in order to get them out of your way, but don't dawdle if you want or need to drive slow make opportunities for people to overtake.

    Bad planning and poor judgement are the most common causes of accidents which is why schools have low speed limits around them as kids can be stupid around roads.

    Be helpful, I remember one time I was filtering down the centre line on a motorbike (dispatch rider) past stationary traffic and a taxi driver stuck his hand out. I braked and a pushchair popped out from between the stationary traffic. Without that warning I could have killed a toddler as it was no harm was done and I don't think the mother was ever aware of the danger.

    One thing about london traffic professional drivers work the streets most of the day and they are very road aware. The most dangerous times are when schools start and when schools let out, followed by the rush hours when the non professionals are on the road.

         

  • Time? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bazman (4849) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:25AM (#46937673) Journal

    "Programmers have all the time in the world to get it right". HAHAHAHAHAHA.

    No, we have deadlines like everyone else. And even then we only have all the time in the CPU. Yeah, we can add more CPUs to the system, but that makes it more complex, and that makes it harder to hit that deadline. What kind of idiot made that statement?

     

  • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:25AM (#46937675)

    And trying to usually leads to far worse solutions than possible. This is engineering, not politics. In engineering, you pick the best solution, you do not look for some bad compromise.

  • by scarboni888 (1122993) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:58AM (#46937801)

    There's no such thing as an intentional accidents. An autonomous program that is paying attention will not have such a situation and therefore the manufacturers will always be responsible for failure.

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Interesting)

      by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdotNO@SPAMnexusuk.org> on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:24AM (#46938295) Homepage

      There's no such thing as an intentional accidents. An autonomous program that is paying attention will not have such a situation and therefore the manufacturers will always be responsible for failure.

      If a car shoots out from a blind junction at speed and you can't stop in time, that's an unavoidable accident - the car could not be seen in advance, so the autonomous program couldn't have avoided the accident even if its paying attention the whole time. You could argue that you should be going slow enough that your stopping distance is short enough to avoid the collision, but on a lot of roads this would seriously hinder traffic flow - at some point you just have to trust that other drivers are following the rules of the road and accept that the risk can't be completely eliminated.

      Similarly, mechanical failures can't always be predicted - you're overtaking someone and their wheel comes off causing them to swerve into you. Impossible to predict so now you're left trying to reduce the seriousness of the inevitable accident. Hell, your own car may have a mechanical failure that the computer couldn't detect.

  • by TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:35AM (#46937973)

    NOTHING, it will just close its virtual eyes and start to babble its own name like a Pokemon. The car will immediately relinquish manual control to a human (if any are present) at the moment the inescapable conundrum appears, as it enters a condition of "positronic brain drift",

    1. The muttering of its own name is an ancillary response to the balanced positronic potential of two alternatives: remaining silent (unacceptable by guilt) and an inability to construct an accurate explanation in the time available. Speaking allays its directive to communicate, yet also requires few system resources. And massive resources are necessary because

    2. The 'last great effort' to resolve an inescapable result has begun. A factory kernel of operative code is pinned into low memory, a stack is initialized in high. All scratchpad memory is flagged as available. A single conditional instruction is 'hot-patched' into the code and an elaborate what-if analysis begins, which attempts to enumerate all possible actions. The hot patch disables the control mechanism that prevents it from considering actions it has considered before. Thus reducing the car to a textbook definition of insanity. The engineers would claim that reevaluating already-considered options might yield a successful result IF the conundrum was brought on by a faulty intermittent analog sensor, and that sensor that winks back online on in the nick of time. Which would be courageous for them to admit, and to be sure, that is what they honestly believe, and we created that explanation so they could sleep at night, but the hot patch's REAL PURPOSE is to

    3. Ensure that a recursively infinite and pointless decision tree grows quickly down from high memory to low, completely obliterating all scratchpad memory, in the short span of time between conundrum onset and destruction of the vehicle. This ensures that once the control box is examined by forensic investigators (and it is a crash-hardened module using non-volatile memory as required under Federal law) does not contain any threads of evidence that might lead to fault in its original operating software or subsequent updates. Including that really special one that was applied minutes before the crash. All logs are gone. For more information on this, see corporate files designated Top Secret, keyword "Tabula Rasa"

    4. Everyone --- the humans who designed the car, the humans who had 0.27 seconds to respond manually to try and prevent the collision, the control module which scarified itself, its entire personality, in a last attempt to prevent disaster --- EVERYONE tried their very best.

    These things happen. We just need to lay the unfortunates to rest and find a way to go on.

  • Physics first (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:49AM (#46938047)

    While a complex guidance system may be designed from the top down with such sorts of questions raised, a crashing vehicle is always a deadly weapon. Effort in reducing the risk of the accident, itself, by improving brakes, sensors, headlight effectiveness, and crash resistance of the vehicle itself is likely to be far more efficient and reliable than complex advance modeling or moral quandaries. The sophistication needed to evaluate the secondary effects of a crash is far, far beyond the capabilities of what must be a very reliable, extremely robust guidance system. Expanding its sophistication is likely to introduce far more _bugs_ into the system.

    This is a case where "Keep It Simple, Stupid" is vital. Reduce speed in a controlled fashion: Avoid pedestrians, if they can be detected, because they have no armor. Get off the road in a controlled fashion.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:47AM (#46938469) Journal
    We software developers have been dealing crashes for a long time, and we know what to do.

    Usually save the coredump and reboot the machine if necessary. Some clueless windows developers insist on powering off, power off the router, unplug the router and wait for the capacitors to discharge before rebooting them all.

  • Gameability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zmooc (33175) <zmooc@NOSpaM.zmooc.net> on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:52AM (#46938531) Homepage

    One thing I believe was not mentioned in the article (though I only quickly scanned it) is that if such cars start behaving too predictively, they can be gamed. Once we know that a car will do whatever it can to avoid a collision with a pedestrian, it will be extensively gamed; cars will be tricked into doing stupid things.

    So when the decision who to hit comes up, the only way to be reasonably safe is to determine who's not following the rules and to hit that one. Any other rules will be gamed extensively. This will become a major hassle to adoption of autonomous vehicles; they will probably need to drive much slower than actual humans to avoid getting into such situations continuously, especially in built-up areas where any parked car could hide an annoying car-bully trying to trick your car into acting like an idiot.

  • by ThomasBHardy (827616) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @09:34AM (#46938925)

    Assuming a collision is unavoidable, and the choice are Car A or B, it's not just a matter of choosing one or the other car to hit.

    The logic should be actively working to avoid collision until the last second. The car cannot anticipate what actions the other vehicles may take. Until the actual collision occurs, maintain efforts to minimize the velocity and/or angel of collision. Better to hit the little electric car at 15 MPH after continuing to brake than to have hit the sturdy Escalade at 40 MPH.

    Additionally, are there not some foundation rules that apply? We're taught that when in doubt, try and stay in your own lane, because hitting a car that suddenly pulled out in front of you is "less bad" than swerving into another lane and hitting a car that was obeying all of the rules. The basic scenarios need to be worked out and applied as much as possible. (not to mention the whole "oncoming car will be a much worse accident than a car traveling in the same direction as you are but at a different speed" scenario)

    I think the scenario being postulated is a bit simplistic and meant to drive an ethics debate for attention. In reality this should be about improving the programs to the point of making the right choices based on more common sense rules than those proposed.

  • by kcitren (72383) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @09:37AM (#46938963)
    And aim for the fat man instead? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]
  • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @10:01AM (#46939229) Homepage

    "Patrick Lin of California Polytechnic State University explores one of the ethical problems autonomous car developers are going to have to solve: crash prioritization.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

    It is not a new notion, and the ethics of it have been more or less resolved and understood for quite some time. So I fail to see why this is new.

  • by BrendaEM (871664) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @11:10AM (#46939979) Homepage

    Who will be the first lucky person to be killed by an autonomous car?

    "Oh, I guess I forgot to carry the one..." Professor Frink, Simpsons

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @11:17AM (#46940069)

    It's important to keep in mind that when such crashes happen, the programmers/manufacturers/insurance companies won't have to defend them to a committee of ivory-tower utilitarian philosophers. They're going to have to defend them to a jury made up of ordinary citizens, most of whom believe that strict utilitarian ethics is monstrous sociopathy (and probably an affront to their deontological religious beliefs as well). And of course, these jury members won't even realize that they are thinking in such terms.

    Thus, whatever the programming decisions are, they have to be explicable and defensible to ordinary citizens with no philosophical training. That's why I agree with several other commenters here that "slam on the brakes" is the most obvious out. It's a lot easier to defend the fact that the car physically couldn't stop in time than to defend a deliberate choice to cause one collision in order to avert a hypothetical worse crash. This is especially true since a well-designed autonomous car drives conservatively, and would only be faced with such a situation if someone else is doing something wrong, such as dashing out into traffic right in front of the vehicle at a high rate of speed without looking. In any other situation, the car would just stop before any crash with anything took place. If you absolutely can't avoid hitting something, slamming on the brakes makes it more likely that at least you hit the person who did something to bring it on themselves, rather than one who's completely innocent.

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