Let’s assume you’re driving down a road. Then, a group of children suddenly appear in front of your car. You hit the brakes, but they don’t work. Now, you have two options: The first is to run over the children and save your life. The second is to swerve into a nearby wall or bollard, thus saving the children but killing yourself. Which would you pick?
Most people agree they will swerve into the bollard and kill themselves.
Now imagine that your car is self-driving, and you’re the passenger. Would you still want it to swerve into the bollard and kill you? Most people who agreed they would swerve into the bollard if they were the driver also agreed that they would not want their self-driving car to swerve into the bollard and kill them. In fact, they won’t even buy such car if they knew it would deliberately put them at risk in an accident.
This takes us to another question: What would the cars do?
The cars will do what they were programmed to do. As things are, makers of self-driving cars aren’t talking. Most, like Apple, Ford, and Mercedes-Benz, tactfully dodge the question at every instance. An executive of Daimler AG (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) once stated that their self driving cars would “protect [the] passenger at all costs.” However, Mercedes-Benz refuted this, stating that their vehicles are built to ensure that such a dilemma never happens. That is ambiguous because we all know that such situations will happen.
Google came clean on this and said its self-driving cars would avoid hitting unprotected road users and moving things. This means the car would hit the bollard and kill the driver. Google further clarifies that in the event of an impending accident, its self-driving cars would hit the smaller of any two vehicles. In fact, Google self-driving cars might be seeking to be closer to smaller objects at all times. Google currently has a patent on a technology that makes its self-driving cars move away from bigger cars and toward smaller cars while on the road