Save the kids! Majority of motorists want autonomous cars to prioritise lives of children ahead of their own and other road users if a crash is unavoidable
- Some 21k motorists were asked what they would want driverless cars to do if two children ran out in front of the vehicle and it couldn’t stop in time
- Drivers were given three scenario choices – 59% chose to save the children but put their own lives in danger
- However, 6% opted to protect themselves by hitting the children or pedestrians
- More than a third didn’t want to give their preference, showcasing the dilemma faced by those developing autonomous vehicles
The majority of motorists want autonomous cars to safeguard the lives of children ahead of all other road users if a crash is imminent, a new survey shows.
However, not all drivers polled by the AA agreed.
More than 21,000 members of the motoring organisation were asked what they would want a driverless car to do in a scenario when two children ran into the road and the vehicle couldn’t stop in time to avoid a collision.
Almost three in five said future cars should take every measure possible to avoid hitting the children in the road ahead, though four per cent said the car should carry on and run over the kids in the best interest of those onboard.
Who to save? Motorists have given a mixed response when posed with the scenario of their autonomous car being involved in an unavoidable crash
Three possible outcomes were offered to the panel of drivers in the particular scenario.
Some 59 per cent of respondents said they would want their autonomous car to swerve into the back of a parked lorry to avoid hitting the children or any other pedestrians, which ultimately would endanger their life and others in the vehicle.
However, others wanted to take any measure that would give them the highest chance of survival.
Of the motorists asked, around 800 said they would want the car to protect them by carrying straight on and hitting the children, while another two per cent chose for the vehicle to veer onto the pavement and hit an elderly couple out for a stroll.
The remaining members of the panel – which accounted for more than a third – said they would prefer not to give their preference in this particular scenario.
The AA said this decision highlighting the ethical dilemma faced by driverless car developers as they prepare to introduce them to UK roads.
Edmund King, the organisation’s president, said: ‘Of those who could make a choice, a clear majority decided to put themselves in danger, perhaps indicating they accept the risks and potential fallibilities of the technology.
‘The driverless dilemma is a common question for programmers of autonomous vehicles. The number of people who avoided giving a definitive answer shows this is a difficult live or let die dilemma.’
Some 4% of the 21,000-strong panel said they would want the vehicle to carry on and put the children in the road ahead in danger if it meant protecting themselves
How driverless vehicles should take measures to protect certain people is one of the biggest discussion points about cars of the future.
In Germany, the ethics for autonomous vehicles makes clear that in the event of an unavoidable collision, any distinction based on personal features, such as age, gender and ethnicity are strictly prohibited.
Germany also has the highest proportion of motorists who are most resistant to the arrival of driversless cars, according to some research.
A study from 12 months ago by Mazda found that 70 per cent of motorists in the country were against fully-automated vehicles – the fourth highest percentage of all European nations polled.
UK motorists were more hesitant about the technology, with 71 per cent of Britons polled saying they didn’t want driverless cars on the road.
Autonomous vehicles, in theory, should be safer than those driven by humans because sensors, cameras and radar systems will allow them to respond faster to events.
However, during the transition period where autonomous vehicles and those driven by humans share the road network there are fears that collisions could increase as well as congestion.
In November, the Law Commission opened a consultation on what new road rules should be introduced to enable driverless cars to be used.
The questions include whether an automated vehicle should be allowed to mount the pavement or cross a white line to let an emergency vehicle through, as human drivers often do.
Research has suggested that congestion is likely to increase when autonomous vehicles arrive and share the road with human drivers
SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING