What happens when a self-driving car detects an unavoidable crash? Does it hit the lone motorcyclist or a school bus? UMass Lowell Philosophy Professor Nicholas Evans hopes to tackle these questions with the help of a three-year, $556,650 National Science Foundation grant.
Evans and his team hope to develop ethical algorithms that can be converted into computer code for use by autonomous vehicles. Evans will also explore other issues including how many autonomous vehicles need to be on the road to reduce overall number of accidents and the role of insurance companies in designing algorithms.
“You could program a car to minimize the number of deaths or life-years lost in any situation, but then something counterintuitive happens: When there’s a choice between a two-person car and you alone in your self-driving car, the result would be to run you off the road,” Evans said in an interview with UMass. “People are much less likely to buy self-driving vehicles if they think theirs might kill them on purpose, and be programmed to do that.”
For more about the project click here.