The future. There are many good things to look forward to, despite the deep level of pessimism ingrained in modern society. One invention on the rise today is self-driving cars.
Tesla has already programmed some level of autonomy into their vehicles, meaning we are already on the road alongside self-driving cars – to a point. Modern self-driving cars operate more like advanced cruise-control. They require passengers to keep a hand on the wheel, and they only really work on highways and interstates, though improvements are rapidly coming.
Let’s operate on the assumption that self-driving cars can perfectly navigate city roads along with other responsible drivers and/or other self-driving cars. Questions start to arise when something goes wrong (obviously).
Here’s a hypothetical situation: A mechanical issue happens in your self-driving car, causing the vehicle to be unable to stop. You’re on a two lane road, and a motorcycle is coming towards you head on with another motorcycle next to them in the other lane. Your car is now left with a choice: It could hit the motorcyclist driving illegally, hit the other motorcyclist, or drive off the road, hitting a tree. No matter what, someone is getting hurt or killed. What should the car do?
People make these choices based on the situational at hand. Self-driving cars have to be programmed to make all these decisions ahead of time. In the instance that the car makes the decision, who is responsible when someone gets hurt because of self-driving cars? The programmers? The other illegal drivers? Should self-driving cars always protect their passengers, or should they protect as many lives as possible?
Self-driving cars are coming, and despite these problems, they are for the better. Almost all accidents are caused by human error, which won’t be an issue with self-driving cars. DUI cases and related injuries would be avoided. Likewise: Running red lights, not breaking for crosswalks and accidents involving distracted driving would potentially be eliminated.
With self-driving cars comes accountability and understanding the lengths programmers of self-driving cars will need to take.