Texas company tests their bulletproof windshield by putting their own CEO behind the wheel, between justification and ethical consequences

Group 27

According to the Texas armouring corporation website, 80-90% of terrorism takes place when the victim is traveling by vehicle. There are about 60 thousand kidnapping cases which are reported per year with about 70% of them being solved by the victim paying the kidnapper the demanded price with no assurance to remain alive[1]. The question is, how far should a company go to show safety when using such armoured vehicles?  Texas company decided to use their own CEO behind the wheel to test its bulletproof windscreen[2], other companies use CEO to test bulletproof vests.

Should companies use employees as safety test subjects?

There are some circumstances where using human testing is acceptable. After watching the controversial video of the Texas CEO behind the wheel[2], demonstrating how safe their windscreen is to withstand bullet, some people were impressed especially given the fact that this company provides defense products to high profile clients like the president of the United States and the pope. Demonstrations can be a remarkable way to advertise the company’s product, as well as build people’s confidence in the product rather than only using expensive and rigorous analytical testing and safety ratings, which most people do not even understand. The customers feel safer, resulting in potentially higher sales, which would please the CEO, his employees and the investors. This is in accordance with utilitarian theory where one should always act to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people[3].

Using human subjects on products linked to human safety is justified since the consequence of this action targets human safety and welfare[3]. At the end of it, this can be beneficial to a lot of people who watch the demonstration.

When it comes to human testing the volunteers are always protected by the law and by contractual agreement, this contains the consequences and benefits including the right to end participation to the test at any time. The volunteer has access to research information and is protected from physical, mental and emotional harm by risk assessment, emergency staff are also available on site in case the test fails[4].

Humans by nature are subjected to risk all the time even in their homes, by applying the practical test for products related to their safety the aim is to prove the results practically and gain the customers’ confidence about product reliability as mentioned earlier. In addition, since alternative methods of testing products, such as use of dummies or robots are very common, the use of humans to test product effectiveness and reliability proves the high degree of safety of the product to be used in human test. Currently with sophisticated technology and simulation advancement, the failure percentage during the product safety test could be negligible. By the time a decision is made to do a human test, the product has been verified through the alternative methods of testing that it is safe to go ahead with demonstration. This decision is made to satisfy the majority, the public. From the utilitarian perspective, the public has unconditionally accepted that the product is indeed able to protect human life in real life scenario.

Humans should not be used to test safety equipment.

At first glance, everything looks great with this demonstration of the CEO and his product. If we explore it through Kant’s egalitarian values though, this decision cannot be justified at all[5]. Kant theory unlike Utilitarian, focuses on the actions rather than the consequences of the action. Can the action be morally and universally justified? If not, even when the intentions behind it are good, we should not act on it.

Human life cannot be used as means to achieve certain objectives, here the CEO uses his own life to generate public confidence in his product. Unlike human testing in areas such as medicine, this test does not influence whether the product should be sold or if it can have any negative side effects. These products were designed to stop bullets, showing that with human subjects is more of a stunt than a valid advertisement for a product.

Utilitarians may argue that this brings greater good to the society by preventing loss of human lives. However, the argument lacks merit since the main reason for the demonstration is publicity, it may even have some negative impacts. Customers can feel over confident and try to imitate the CEO’s actions, there are some cases of this happening as teenagers died carrying out similar tests[6]. Furthermore, the International Community on Harmonisation states that in the case of human testing you must weigh the risk of the trail with the anticipated benefit to the individual as well as society[7]. In this case the benefit for the CEO would be the trust consumers will have in that product, for society it will help them make decisions when buying the product. The risk for the CEO can be death, for society the main risk as mentioned before is the extra confidence in the product. For both these cases the benefit gained does not outweigh the risk, since the tests will have the same impacts if dummies were used rather than human subjects. Therefore, the greater good argument is not ethically acceptable. Considering this kind of testing is acceptable and that any viewers will not be negatively influenced by it, there are still some other issues that come with it. As good as the product may be, some people will buy this product under the influence of this advert. If the customer is then in a similar situation and the product fails to deliver, the CEO can be held morally responsible for any such tragedy. Therefore, even though utilitarian arguments try to justify the decision by justifying the results achieved by the decision[8]. They are vague and we should focus on the decision and whether it is morally justified rather than take into account the consequences.

Initial Decision

Human test subjects should not be used.

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.texasarmoring.com/
  2. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2833895/CEO-armored-car-company-sits-car-employee-shoots-fires-12-rounds-AK-47.html
  3. Van de Poel, Ibo, and Lambèr Royakkers. Ethics, Technology, and Engineering : An Introduction, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2011.
  4. http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/consumer_safety/opinions/sccnfp_opinions_97_04/sccp_out87_en.htm
  5. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/
  6. https://www.foxnews.com/world/teen-killed-after-friend-allegedly-shoots-him-during-bulletproof-vest-prank
  7. https://jme.bmj.com/content/30/1/110
  8. https://www.ukessays.com/essays/philosophy/bentham-vs-kant-why-kants-theory-more-appealing-philosophy-essay.php

14 thoughts on “Texas company tests their bulletproof windshield by putting their own CEO behind the wheel, between justification and ethical consequences

  1. I wish to oppose use of human beings to test the safety of this bullet proof wind shield. they should adopt use of dummies just like what they use in car crash tests to test of cars. use of human or staffs can pose catastrophe and loss of life and am sure in such cases even insurance might decline to compensate.

  2. Very well done article. Good to read and application of utilitarian and egalitarian theories.

    I however find the mention of egalitarian school of thought in relation to the key question to have very little to do with the title or topic.

    Utilitarian theory in relation to the testing of the bullet proof is very much relevant. I also agree that for such kind of tests it’s more of a publicity stunt to increase sales rather than looking out for the greater good of the public.

    Nice article once again!

  3. I do agree that especially with niche products such as bullet proof glass, the usage of human subjects is difficult to justify. However, would you have reached the same conclusion with a product that truly would benefit a much greater population?

  4. I agree with the second argument.

    No human lives should be used for testing unless the benefit out ways the risk.

    This is a market stunt that may lead to fatal accidents by those over confident in the product and willing to copy the same ad.

    I understand people have the right to do whatever they want but that precious right can not be toyed with as in this case it is being for selfish gains.

  5. The article is written in a very lucid style.
    Both perspectives explained here have strong arguments.
    However, I would go with the final decision as it is morally and practically correct!

  6. In agreement with the egalitarian school of thought. Human life should not be used for testing safety equipment.

    The test was a marketing gimmick for sales to soar. The utilitarian school of thought holds some water as long as the test worked. Picture the flip side of it for a moment, what if for some reason the test failed and the CEO got bullet in his head, where is the greater good here? What would have happened to the sales (the real motivation behind the test) and the bad publicity? How many other human tests would they have done to prove otherwise?

    Bottom line, the risks are too high and human life too precious.

  7. I lean more towards karts school of thought. The exercise is very dangerous and could lead to cudtomers attempting the same actions at home. Well articulated article, well done!

  8. Have a look at care ethics, the relationship between the company and its customers. The company’s use of its CEO appears to work favourably since he is risking his life and asking his customers to trust their lives to his product. However, the test may not accurately reflect the actual situation the customers may face. The disclaimers* at the start of the clip give the suggestion that the demonstration may not reflect this – but that could be me reading around the words.

    * – the one saying don’t point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill or destroy was unnerving.

Leave a Reply