Google Lexus autonomous car
Reports released reveal that one of Google’s Gen-2 vehicles (the Lexus) has had a fender-bender (with a bus) with some responsibility assigned to the system. This is the first crash of this type — all other impacts have been reported as fairly clearly the fault of the other driver.

While some people like to imagine that important ethical questions for robocars revolve around choosing who to kill in an accident, that’s actually an extremely rare event. The real ethical issues revolve around this issue of how to drive when driving involves routinely breaking the law — not once in a 100 lifetimes, but once every minute. Or once every second, as is the case in India. To solve this problem, we must come up with a resolution, and we must eventually get the law to accept it the same way it accepts it for all the humans out there, who are almost never ticketed for these infractions.

So why is this a good thing? Because Google is starting to work on problems like these, and you need to solve these problems to drive even in orderly places like California. And yes, you are going to have some mistakes and some dings on the way there, and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Mistakes in negotiating who yields to who are very unlikely to involve injury, as long as you don’t involve things smaller than cars (such as pedestrians). Robocars will need to not always yield in a game of chicken, or they can’t survive on the roads.

Drivers ed for robots – here’s when to push it, here’s when to back off. The ultimate game of bumper cars and of course “they” with their 360 vision and digital reflexes will be a lot better at it than we are…


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