October 10, 2016

RESOLVING THE TROLLEY PROBLEM IN FAVOR OF THE TROLLEY’S OWNER: Self-Driving Mercedes Will Prioritize Occupant Safety over Pedestrians.

The world’s oldest carmaker no longer sees the problem, similar to the question from 1967 known as the Trolley Problem, as unanswerable. Rather than tying itself into moral and ethical knots in a crisis, Mercedes-Benz simply intends to program its self-driving cars to save the people inside the car. Every time.

All of Mercedes-Benz’s future Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous cars will prioritize saving the people they carry, according to Christoph von Hugo, the automaker’s manager of driver assistance systems and active safety.

“If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car,” Hugo said in an interview at the Paris auto show. “If all you know for sure is that one death can be prevented, then that’s your first priority.” . . .

“You could sacrifice the car. You could, but then the people you’ve saved initially, you don’t know what happens to them after that in situations that are often very complex, so you save the ones you know you can save,” he argued. In other words, if the car swerves to avoid kids running into the road and instead crashes into something else, it risks the lives of those in the car and cannot predict with certainty what other side effects may follow. Perhaps the car bounces off a pole and hits the kids anyway, or the pole falls over on them, or there’s a secondary collision with a loaded school bus coming the other way.

Well, the customer is always right. Plus: “This moral question of whom to save: 99 percent of our engineering work is to prevent these situations from happening at all. We are working so our cars don’t drive into situations where that could happen and [will] drive away from potential situations where those decisions have to be made.”

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