Star-Telegram - - Drive -

gets hit will be a de­ci­sion your car’s soft­ware must make.

This Moral Ma­chine quiz is very sim­i­lar to some­thing pro­posed in this col­umn years ago, about a self-driv­ing car round­ing a curve, see­ing 6-year-old lit­tle Suzie stand­ing in the mid­dle of your lane. To avoid hit­ting her, your op­tions are:

Mov­ing into the next lane, where a speed­ing truck is com­ing your way.

Go­ing over the cliff on the other side with an

A. B.

un­cer­tain out­come for you.

Run­ning over Lit­tle Suzie.

If you were in charge of the car you would have to make that de­ci­sion quickly. Some would be like a deer in head­lights and freeze. Sorry, Suzie.

But if the car is in charge of the de­ci­sion, who knows?

One thing is cer­tain. This In­ter­na­tional Moral Ma­chine quiz showed the best of mankind, in want­ing the car to al­ways make the right de­ci­sion to save the most in­di­vid­u­als. (Well, ex­cept maybe in Saudi Ara­bia.) That’s the prob­lem


with sur­veys and polls: We an­swer them the way we wish we re­ally were.

But I sim­ply can’t imag­ine an in­di­vid­ual go­ing into a deal­er­ship one day and ask­ing how these new self-driv­ing cars were pro­grammed to de­cide who wins in an ac­ci­dent. Be­cause if the an­swer is, “Maybe not you,” it’s hard to be­lieve some­one would buy that ve­hi­cle.

Keep in mind that for decades, many in­di­vid­u­als who pur­chased large SUVs be­lieved, not al­ways cor­rectly, that in the event of a ma­jor ac­ci­dent that ve­hi­cle gave them the sur­vival


Can you imag­ine a soc­cer mom driv­ing a ve­hi­cle that might not put her or her chil­dren first?

None of this mat­ters, any­how. In 65 years, we have yet to com­pletely per­fect airbags, with the weak­est link of the past 20 years be­ing car com­pa­nies’ cut­ting so many cor­ners on parts pro­cure­ment that they bought an in­fe­rior airbag that in many cases could act not as a safety de­vice, but as an ex­plo­sive. With me­tal shrap­nel.

If we can’t even fig­ure out some­thing as sim­ple as that, does any­one be­lieve

we’re go­ing to have ve­hi­cles that have to cal­cu­late mil­lions, if not bil­lions of cal­cu­la­tions in the split sec­ond be­fore a po­ten­tial ac­ci­dent?

Re­mem­ber, the Ring app can take 5 – 7 sec­onds just to let you know who’s at the front door.

An ex­ec­u­tive with Mercedes talk­ing about self­driv­ing cars said that his com­pany was go­ing to code a Benz to save its owner and fam­ily first.

A spokesper­son with Daim­ler im­me­di­ately said he had been mis­quoted, and that state­ment was not true. Know­ing how the

world re­ally works, imag­ine how many Mercedes they would sell if their ad cam­paign for a fu­ture self­driv­ing car were noth­ing more than, “You Live No Mat­ter What, in a Benz.”

Or bet­ter yet, a Mercedes that promises you will sur­vive, only to find out it came equipped with re­man­u­fac­tured Takata airbags.

Ed Wal­lace is a re­cip­i­ent of the Ger­ald R. Loeb Award for busi­ness jour­nal­ism, be­stowed by the An­der­son School of Busi­ness at UCLA, and hosts the top-rated talk show, Wheels, 8:00 to 1:00 Satur­days on 570 KLIF AM. Email: ed­wal­lace570@gmail.com

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