SBT Car News

Self driving cars – advocates tangle with messy morality

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The high tech change to our automotive way of life is getting closer day by day. Nevada has given the green light for testing of autonomous vehicles on public roadways, and California is moving quickly in the similar direction. Carmaker Nissan, meanwhile, has committed the arrival of self driving cars by the end of this decade. Then there’s technology giant Google, which has long dabbled in self driving cars and earlier this year unveiled a two seats prototype that provoked some controversy over just how necessary a steering wheel might be. Self driving cars use multiple sensors, lasers, radar, 2D and 3D cameras to sense what’s around them and make decisions 200 times per second about the best course of action.

Self-driving cars actually can bring some clarity to the issue by virtue of the immense amount of sensor data they gather, including a record of where cars were and how fast they were going, said Seval Oz, a former leader of Google’s self-driving car plan who now is in charge of similar work for automotive technology supplier Continental.

“The beauty in this technology is that logs, logs, logs are kept. You will have a repository of data that says exactly what happened and who is at fault. One big motivation for self-driving cars is to help people who can’t drive for themselves, or who can’t drive well.” Oz said at the conference.

We have a global population that is aging. It includes the aged, the weak, the handicapped, and people with macular degeneration or eye problem. Self-driving cars fit into this moral equation, too. Think what happens to people who are diminished and can’t move around. Eventually they atrophy and die. Oz said:

“We shouldn’t be judged on how we treat our top 5 percent but how we accommodate our bottom 20 percent.”