While Europe discusses self-driving, MIT creates the "moral" car


The ethical issue connected with robotics has always been close to our heart (we already talked about it in this post). The ethical problem is increasingly becoming a hot issue with regard to future mobility, namely a sector in which very important issues are at stake. We are talking about self-driving: by the end of this year the European Commission will have to enact specific legislation on technological connection solutions that will allow driverless cars to be both autonomous and safe. 

This decision-making process involves two parties which, not surprisingly, are in conflict: car manufacturers, on the one hand, and telecommunication/technology operators on the other hand. What is at stake is the choice between V2V, the Vehicle-to-vehicle system based on short-range Wi-Fi, already available and preferred by most car manufacturers, and the Vehicle-to-everything long-range mobile system, which is based on the future 5G, ready for commercial use by 2025 and on which, quite obviously, tech companies are highly focused. 

But the debate on self-driving concerns also and above all the ensuing ethical problem: who should be saved in case of an accident, the pedestrian suddenly appearing out of nowhere or the car’s passengers? To move forward with this issue and provide guidance for the programming of the artificial intelligence systems that will "animate" self-driving in the future, researchers at MIT have created the Moral Machine, a sort of "universal" moral consultation platform involving over 2.3 million people from 130 different countries. It is a platform where no less than 13 critical situations are simulated and where participants are asked what the response of a self-driving car should be. The answers given are fairly predictable: to protect as many lives as possible, to prefer humans to animals, children to adults. The geographical differences with regard to the sensitivity to this issue are also very interesting: while respondents in North America and Europe believe that the elderly are more "sacrificable" than the young, Eastern countries do not think likewise. Japan, Norway and Singapore have a strong tendency to protect passers-by, while China, Estonia and Taiwan consider the lives of passengers as more "precious".