The Car’s Choice: Illusions of Agency in the Self-Driving Car Trolley Problem

In: Artificial Intelligence
Author: Rebecca Davnall

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Abstract

The self-driving car trolley problem has received undue focus in the automation ethics literature. It is unrealistic in two important ways: First, it fails to respect well-established truths of vehicle dynamics relating to tire friction, and second, it misrepresents the information environment that self-driving cars will respond to. Further, the problem induces readers to treat the car as an agent, thereby shielding the agency of car designers and operators from scrutiny. This problem is illustrated through an analysis of the reporting of the first pedestrian fatality caused by a self-driving car, in Tempe, Arizona on March 18th, 2018.

Artificial Intelligence

Reflections in Philosophy, Theology, and the Social Sciences