Although the overarching goal in the evolution of automotive technology has been to create greater safety for drivers that saves lives and lowers the risk of injury, an acute obsession with creating fully autonomous driving systems may be creating ethical and practical nightmares for some in the auto industry. Tesla, for example, seems to be tempting motorists into distraction with a driver-friendly screen for playing video games while the car is on autopilot.
Artificial intelligence (AI), as it is developing in high-tech safety systems, may be able to sense and predict potential hazards, which can warn drivers and thus prevent accidents from occurring. But the function of driver assistance is a far cry from handing the keys over to the AI system to make life and death decisions. With incidents of driver distraction on the rise across the country, it is wise to keep in mind that the priority is to save lives.
The evolution of high-tech auto technology
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been focused for many years on lowering traffic injuries and deaths by creating goalposts and regulations to encourage the development of advanced vehicle technologies in the auto industry. The NHTSA has identified five eras in the evolution of safety-driven technologies:
- 1950 to 2000, safety and convenience: Cruise control, antilock brakes and seat belts.
- 2000 to 2010, advanced safety: Blind spot detection, lane departure and forward collision warning.
- 2010 to 2016, advanced driver assistance: Rearview video features, automatic emergency breaking and lane centering assist.
- 2016 to 2025, partially automated safety: Adaptive cruise control, traffic jam and lane keeping assist.
- 2025, fully automated safety.
With close to 40,000 annual traffic fatalities and rising, the NHTSA is aiming to lower risk and improve safety with the development of driving systems that will potentially be fully automated.
The ethics of AI autonomy
The “trolley problem” is a philosophical conundrum that places an individual in the uncomfortable position of having to make a decision that will have deadly consequences no matter what they choose. In a real-life scenario that involves a loved one, or even a complete stranger who is at risk of serious injury or death, allowing AI to make such fatal choices seems short-sighted.
Providing unnecessary distractions for drivers who have relinquished control of the vehicle to an automated system not only relieves them of the responsibilities of driving, but also their connection and duty of care to others on the road. And how will the courts determine liability when the actions of an automated system result in death?
Residents of Atlanta and throughout Georgia know just how dangerous it is to be out on the road these days. When an accident results from another driver’s inattention or impaired driving, it is essential to know where to find the legal resources necessary to pursue just compensation for your claim.