Will Your Self-Driving Car Have Morals?
WIRED guest editor President Barack Obama ponders how a smart car will come equipped with morality for the masses.
Artificial intelligence can be equipped to calculate the best possible outcome to many situations, but will those AI calculations be black-and-white or will they factor ethics and morality into the equation?
Self-driving cars are a reality today, but to be adopted by the masses, the automotive and regulatory industries need to do more work. One area that is garnering attention now involves how the vehicle, or rather the software embedded into the car hardware, will determine the best possible outcome for the car’s passenger driver, other drivers, pedestrians and more. Will self-driving cars be programmed with morals?
That’s the question President Barack Obama discussed with WIRED editor in chief Scott Dadich and MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito. As part of a series of video interviews, the three discuss ethical concerns around artificial intelligence used in self-driving cars.
“The technology is essentially here, and we now have to take a technology in which machines can make a bunch of quick decisions, oftentimes quicker than we can, that could drastically reduce traffic fatalities and that could drastically improve efficiencies of transportation … [and decide] what are the values that we are gong to embed into the car to get all the benefits of self-driving cars,” Obama said. “ And how do we make the public comfortable with it?”
Instilling the moral code into intelligent cars that would have the vehicle decide to spare the most lives is something being discussed now, MIT’s Ito said. And the idea of protecting the masses appeals to many, but perhaps won’t be a selling point to some car owners.
“Most people like the idea that the driver or the passenger could be sacrificed to save many people, but they would never drive that car,” Ito pointed out. “We can’t have it be just market-driven.”
This is when the role of government and regulatory organizations come into play. As technologies emerge, the government takes on a lighter role letting the area grow and advance. But as these new areas start to become mature, the government does have to increase its role in ensuring the technology addresses the concerns of a diverse group of citizens.
“As technologies emerge and mature, then figuring out how they get incorporated into existing regulatory structure becomes a tougher problem and the government needs to be involved a little bit more,” Obama explained. “It’s not always to force the new technology into the square peg that exists, but maybe to change the peg.”