‘Largest problem of self-driving cars will be ethical decisions’


It will not be the technological hurdles, but the ethical decisions made behind the wheel which will provide the most difficult challenges that manufacturers of self-driving vehicles will encounter. This was stated by Markus Auerbach, head of the Audi Innovation Research office in San Francisco.

Auerbach wants to emphasize the fact that the technology of autonomous vehicles is only one step towards a world consisting only of automated vehicles. When robots have to make ethical decisions, the real problems arise. “A car, out of control, is a weapon,” Auerbach said at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto.

Woman on a bike

To strengthen his statement, Auerbach provided the more often used example in which the robot has to make a decision when a collision is inevitable. “An autonomous vehicle that can’t avoid a collision could be forced to choose between hitting a child who is crossing the street and an elderly woman on a bike.”

Auerbach said the machines which are in control of the vehicles will need a framework. “So they are able to make decisions in such cases. This means society will have to confront some difficult ethical issues”, Auerbach explained.

Tests in Ontario

At the end of 2015, the government of Ontario announced that it will allow testing self-driving cars on its roads from the beginning of this year. The Economic Development Minister posed that the goal of the province is to become ‘one of the easiest places on the planet’ for car manufacturers to conduct research in the field of autonomous driving.

Author: Lars Verpalen

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