Researchers Test Public Reaction to Autonomous Vehicle Behavior in Crash Scenarios


October 17, 2018

October 9, 2018 (sciencedaily.com) According to an online news story from sciencedaily.com, a group of researchers recently tested public reaction to autonomous vehicle behavior in crash scenarios.*

In a new study published in Risk Analysis: An International Journal, researchers asked members of the public about what they believed to be the most morally and ethically sound behavior by an autonomous vehicle faced with a possible collision. No matter how well technology advances, autonomous vehicles are bound to be involved in some crashes. The research team asked people whether, in certain crash scenarios, vehicles should stay in their lanes and brake or should swerve to try to avoid a crash. 

The team manipulated the probabilities of crash based on each behavior and inserted other possible consequences, such as hitting a bystander on the sidewalk. Generally, people preferred for the cars to stay in their lanes and brake to try to avoid accidents. People consider this option reasonable because it provides a greater degree of control, even when it does not minimize the anticipated loss. 

Even when staying in the lane would result in an accident, people were less likely to alter their moral evaluation of the vehicle’s conduct. However, a bad outcome from the vehicle’s swerving had a heavy influence on people’s analysis of the decision in retrospect. 

“Our research highlights the importance of gaining a better understanding of how people think about the behavior of autonomous vehicles under different degrees of uncertainty,” said researcher Björn Meder. “The findings will help to inform policy making and public discussion of the ethical implications of technological advances that will transform society in a variety of ways.”  

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