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Self-Driving Car Dilemmas Reveal That Moral Choices Are Not ­niversal

By Nature

October 26, 2018

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The largest-ever multinational survey on machine ethics found many moral precepts that guide a driver's decisions are not universal, creating a dilemma in developing rules for autonomous vehicles.

The Moral Machine poll outlined 13 scenarios in which a death was unavoidable, with respondents asked to choose whose life to save under variable circumstances. Regardless of respondents' age, gender, or home country, most spared humans over pets, and groups over individuals.

However, broken down by prevailing religious trends, nations where Christianity is more prominent tended to favor sacrificing older lives to save younger ones, versus countries with strong Confucian or Islamic traditions.

Income and social inequality also impacted drivers' decisions throughout the survey pool.

The survey's authors say these findings define cultural subtleties that governments and self-driving car manufacturers must account for if autonomous vehicles are to gain public acceptance.

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