We don’t often think about it in this way, but driving is an activity in which ethics often comes into play. After all, you are using a dangerous machine that could seriously harm someone.

We don’t often think about it in this way, but driving is an activity in which ethics often comes into play. After all, you are using a dangerous machine that could seriously harm someone. Approximately 40,000 people died in 2017 in the US due to automobiles (for comparison, in 2017 fewer than 20,000 people died in the US due to guns). A lot can be on the line.
This has become more important as people have started thinking about the possibility of self-driving cars. To have a self-driving car, you need to program it not only to obey traffic laws but also to make ethical decisions about the best way to minimize harm. The Moral Machine project has been investigating people’s views about the best way to do this. On their website, you can contribute your own opinion about the right way to address moral dilemmas in driving.
One of the results of the project has been to show that different cultures can make very different moral assumptions about how one should drive. Within a particular culture, people will tend to agree, but people from different cultures may disagree a lot. Their data also suggest that there are three major cultural clusters when it comes to moral driving, each with very different assumptions. The Southern driving culture (found in Latin American and some French-influenced places) emphasizes saving women and children far more than the other two. The Eastern driving culture (found in places like Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Pakistan) emphasizes saving pedestrians and people who are obeying the law. And the Western driving culture (found in the US and most European and British Commonwealth countries) is more likely to think that inaction is OK. And there are many other differences.
What do you think about the possibility of self-driving cars? And if we do get self-driving cars, what do you think their ethical programming should emphasize?

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