Artificial Intelligence in Vehicles May Decide Your Life Does Not Matter

Autonomous vehicles are being heralded as the next great innovation in automotive technology, but is this technology ready to make the profound ethical decisions that human drivers make on a regular basis? Ethicists and scientists alike are now suggesting that unless specific algorithms exist telling an autonomous vehicle how to weigh the facts and circumstances in an ethically-challenging situation, an automated vehicle may be your salvation – or the instrument of your death – in the event of a crash.

The Classic “Trolley Problem” Illustrates Human Intuition and Judgment

Ethicists in particular have wondered how a computer responsible for driving a vehicle would respond to the hypothetical “trolley problem.” The ethical dilemma is the following: consider a trolley that is full of passengers and that is traveling through town. Suddenly, a pedestrian steps in front of the trolley and there is no time for the trolley to stop. In the adjacent lane, a concrete barrier has been erected as the result of nearby road work. The trolley operator has only two choices: he or she can continue along his path, striking and killing the pedestrian but saving the trolley full of passengers. Or the operator can change lanes, thereby saving the pedestrian’s life at the expense of the passengers of the trolley.

This “no-win” ethical puzzle elicits different answers in humans – some say it is better to sacrifice one person to save many, while others would save the pedestrian in the problem – but what is unclear is how a machine would respond when faced with the same dilemma. What is even more concerning is that developers of automated cars have not come forward with a satisfactory answer that tells those interested in an automated vehicle whether their computerized “driver” would sacrifice them or another person when faced with such a “no win” situation.

Automated Vehicle Programmers and Manufacturers May Find These Ethical Dilemmas Costly

Even if programmers create the necessary algorithms to resolve these ethical dilemmas in a consistent manner, this would not necessarily mean they would be absolved of all responsibility in the event of a death resulting from the “choice” one of their programmed cars made. For instance, suppose that in the “trolley problem” the car is programmed to save the lives of the occupants in the car over the life of a pedestrian. Suppose further that the computerized car misreads a traffic control signal or its sensors do not detect the presence of a pedestrian when they ought to have. The car’s programmer and/or manufacturer may find themselves named as the defendant in a lawsuit arising from the pedestrian’s death – this in spite of the fact that the car’s computer made a “decision.”

Put Our Law Firm’s Over 39 Years of Legal Experience to Work For Your Accident Claim!

The question of who an automated car will work to save is but one hurdle that must be addressed and resolved before most occupants will be comfortable with a truly autonomous car. Even now, self-driving and semi-autonomous cars are causing and/or being involved in traffic collisions and wrecks.

Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, assists victims of Georgia car wrecks and other traffic collisions in the Southeast recover compensation for their injuries and losses. This may include monetary compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, punitive damages if the at-fault driver’s conduct rose to the level of gross negligence and more. We strive to achieve the most favorable outcome possible for our clients under the law.

Our law firm has over 39 years of experience in representing car accident victims across Georgia and in the Southeast. Contact us to schedule your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.