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Moral dilemma could put brakes on driverless cars

In emergencies, who should be saved: Passengers or pedestrians?

2:00pm, June 23, 2016
driverless cars

CAR CONFLICT  Driverless cars will need to be programmed to handle emergency situations. New surveys find that people have conflicting opinions on whether automated vehicles should protect pedestrians over car passengers.

Driverless cars are revved up to make getting from one place to another safer and less stressful. But clashing views over how such vehicles should be programmed to deal with emergencies may stall the transportation transformation, a new study finds.

People generally approve of the idea of automated vehicles designed to swerve into walls or otherwise sacrifice their passengers to save a greater number pedestrians, say psychologist Jean-François Bonnefon of the Toulouse School of Economics in France and his colleagues. But here’s the hitch: Those same people want to ride in cars that protect passengers at all costs, even if pedestrians end up dying, the researchers report in the June 24 Science.

“Autonomous cars can revolutionize transportation,” says cognitive scientist and study coauthor Iyad Rahwan of the University of California, Irvine and MIT. “But they pose a

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