Results of MIT survey reveals global preferences about ethics of autonomous vehicles (Automotive and transportation)

This survey by MIT researchers worldwide on a distinctly enormous scale, with more than 2 million participants online from around 200 countries considering the classic ethical mystery named the “Trolley Problem.” The tricky case involves various scenarios which have a car accident prominent amongst them; the vehicle involved in the scenario faces two options. For the cases involving self-driving cars, this means it might swerve towards some people, instead of an enormous group of bystanders.

According to the postdoc at the Media Lab at MIT and the leading author of this paper, Mr. Awad Edmond: “The study is basically trying to understand the kinds of moral decisions that driverless cars might have to resort to,”

He further added about the project: “We don’t know yet how they should do that.”

The lead author continues: “We found that there are three elements that people seem to approve of the most.”

In fact the maximum emphatic worldwide preferences reflected by the survey are towards sparing human lives, preferring them over the lives of animals and other living creatures; trying to spare the lives of more people instead of just a few; and reflected the preference of people to protect the younger lives, instead of that of the older people.

Mr. Awad noted that: “The main preferences were to some degree universally agreed upon,” and further says that: “But the degree to which they agree with this or not varies among different groups or countries.”

The findings of the survey are discussed in detail in the “The Moral Machine Experiment” paper, which would be published in the Nature Journal.

The authors of this paper other than Awad are:

  • Sohan Dsouza, Media lab doctoral student;
  • Richard Kim, Media lab research assistant;
  • Jonathan Schulz, Harvard University’s postdoc;
  • Joseph Henrich, Harvard University’s professor;
  • Azim Shariff, University of British Columbia’s associate professor;
  • Jean-François Bonnefon, Toulouse School of Economics Professor;
  • Iyad Rahwan, Media Lab’s Associate professor media and arts