Reading12: Don’t Fear the Reaper

The first time I ever considered the ethical concerns of self driving cars was as a direct result of the British television show, Top Gear. In this particular episode one of the presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, brings up an issue. “What should a self driving car do if it physically can’t stop, run into the back of the car in front of it, killing the passengers in the car, or swerve into a crowd of people on the sidewalk.” Clarkson’s question is in essence asking about one of the main ethical concerns of the implementation of self driving cars, the Trolley Problem. The problem goes, there is a trolley out of control rushing down the path and if it is allowed to continue as is, a group of people will be killed; however, if you switch the tracks the trolley will instead only hit a single person who is on the other track. The question is one that has been considered heavily and, despite questions about the applicability to self driving cars by people such as Ian Bogost, will continue to be discussed. This question and others like it will continue to be asked as self driving cars are further developed and tested, especially on public roads. The reasons behind developing self driving automobile technology is understandable even with these concerns. Thousands of people die as a result of automobile accidents every year and of these accidents, ninety percent are as a result of human mistakes. Therefore, theoretically if human error was eliminated the number of automobile related deaths would drop drastically. This would have a particularly large impact on the shipping industry. There are thousands of truck drivers currently on the road, transportation is one of the biggest industries in the United States, however it is also extremely dangerous. Many of these drivers are promised bonuses if they get their loads to their destinations faster so they tend to speed, not sleep as much as they should, and drive in dangerous conditions. For example there was a big snow storm on the east coast last week Pennsylvania and Ohio were also hit pretty badly. This weekend while driving to New York, I counted at least seven tractor trailers crashed on the side of the road, most of them overturned and all of them at least jackhammered. If these trucks were self driving cars instead of real drivers they would have pulled over immediately when the snow started and even if they had crashed no one would have been hurt. While the drivers would be safer that ignores the fact they would lose their jobs as a result of the self driving trucks. Self driving cars could very seriously and very quickly decimate the transportation industry. That would cause a lot of people who had steady employment for years to now be without employment, at first these self driving cars and trucks may still require safety drivers, so instead of driving they are acting as safety drivers, but it won’t be long until they will be out of a job altogether. Hopefully, jobs are made as a result of the creation of self driving cars, but at the present moment, I don’t see a solution only problems. These problems are also moral, aside from the ethics of a car’s system is the testing of these cars. Many people report that to get truly effective self driving cars they need to be tested on real world road with other drivers around and real world conditions. There needs to be more oversight though. A the present time, the government doesn’t regulate self driving cars enough and people have died. However not all the blame lies with the government. Specifically in the case of the pedestrian being struck and killed in Arizona, a large part of the blame rests with Uber who turned off their emergency braking system, which at the very least sounds like something that should never be turned off, in order to create a more smooth ride.  


In the end self driving cars will be implemented in the future, I just think its a matter of how much. Personally I feel the ideal conditions are if self driving automobiles are used for longer distance driving such as with trucking, this would limit the fatigue of long distance driving, while also limiting the pedestrian interaction with autonomous cars. In more residential cities, I feel the systems should act more as advisory and last resort systems rather than total control. Think as though it were more of just improved versions of the guidance systems we have today with lane assist and other features. But more I feel public transportation would be ideal especially in the most urban areas.