As the development of artificial intelligence and SLAM autonomous systems become extremely potential research projects for big companies. It seems that driverless vehicles will be the future of the vehicle industry if those companies enable to overcome technical challenges. However, it will conflict with the current law systems and ethical standard which needs a feasible solution.
Potential benefits of developing and popularising autonomous car
Currently, the features of each kind of existing cars are including cruise control, traction control and anti-lock braking (ABS), which represents the autonomy in cars having existed. These technologies have been very developed to intervene special cases when needed without driver control, aimed to make driving safer. In statistics, a total of 27130 people were killed or seriously injured (KSI casualties) in 2017.
Hence, why not improve it to the next stage by eliminating people driving mistakes and then usher in the brand-new period of fully autonomous cars to achieve fully safe driving?
The benefits of action of removing driver are not only reflected in the human’s safety but also embodied in environmental protection. The well-control of speeding up, brake and transmission give a higher fuel efficiency and a lower emission of greenhouse gases. In statistics, the fuel consumption rate and emission of relative gases would reduce 2~4% per years in next 10 years.
In addition, the time saved from driving can be transferred to work which extremely increases the productivity. With the combination of high productivity, reducing of a traffic accident and the growth of fuel utilization, it is able to bring values equivalent to 1300 billion dollars per year to US economy. The value benefits from this technology could be 5600 billion per year if it is promoted to global.
This technology will provide a chance for those alcoholic people as well, and it was reported that only 17% of adults didn’t consume alcohol or non-drink experience in 2015. With applying this technique to the future cars, it will greatly improve people’s life quality. They will be no worries about drunk driving. Driving for a long time is also another serious issue in the last few years. Thus, it is a fantastic idea to transform human beings from driver to passengers. As passengers, we can do anything we want during the driving process, such as phone calls, playing games, even working in the car. The most interesting thing is removing the requirement for driver controls, such as steering wheel, pedal plates, even accelerator, which results in more available space in the vehicles.
With the human population is dramatically increasing these days. In statistics, World population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 which causes the high demand for living area. The promotion of autonomous vehicle can reduce the number of private cars so that the land built for the park can be saved to put into use of living. Even for a private autonomous vehicle, it would be led to the most proper parking area by GPS system. If it comes true, approximately 31 percent of land in a city can be transferred into a residential area.
Existing ethical problems developed inside the self-driving vehicle
There are no matching laws and regulations to identify who should be responsible for a traffic incident. If someone is killed due to the technical limitations of the driving system, who we should be blame, technical company or driver? Life is lost but no one will be sentenced just because of lack or even ignorance of the targeted law.
It was reported that a driver of a Tesla car had been killed in a road accident after its Autopilot mode failed to recognise an oncoming lorry. Recently, it is reported that an Uber autonomous car  hit and killed a woman in a new trial on the road. The self-system technology and corresponding law have not developed enough yet.
Let us dig deeper into potential accidents caused by limitations of this tech. If the autonomous car would decide to collide with trees or fence, it could cause hurt to the passenger in the car who has a clear mind just to avoid a crash with another car driven by a drunk driver.
For the most people, they agree that the man who has clear mind should not bear the physical pain and the damage to the private property. The drunk driver should pay the price both from economic and physical aspects. In common sense, people will protect themselves according to egoism, but programming logic of autonomous car could not handle the issue in this way. Although maybe the consequence of action results that they will all survive and protect the drunk driver who seems to be “weaker part” in this accident by sacrificing part of benefits of the others. It could raise the argument whether should save drunk driver’s life or not. This action violates the egoism and distinct but demonstrates virtue ethics, demonstrated in Kant’s Theory. Resulting consequence is central to the moral decision.
Technically, an autonomous system should not discriminate between individuals based on age, gender or any other factor. Autonomous systems do not have those human frailties and will choose actions via cold logic programming.
In most real situations, an autonomous car will check a value-of-life table and choose to hit the lowest value of life could be the best solution, but the ethical issues do exist in extreme cases. A model of human morality is very complexly, different cultures and regional groups may affect the results. It is disputable that which perspective of the population to use when creating the table. On the other hand, the sum of our ethical choices that transfer to vehicles could disclose humanity to be despicably racist and selfish. This is due to implicit bias, also known as implicit social cognition, which is pervasive and refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our behaviour in an unconscious manner. This is a more harmful flaw that applying a controversial value-of-life system with our embarrassing ethical imperfection to autonomous vehicles.