Autonomous Vehicles Will Decide Who Gets Killed

In a not too distant future, you may be riding in an autonomous vehicle that is forced to decide between running over a pedestrian or a bicyclist.  Or whether to crash into a tree or another automobile.  It may make a decision you are not particularly happy with.  These decisions will rely on “artificial intelligence” built into these cars.  These decisions are being programmed right now by developers of autonomous vehicles.  Want to know under what conditions you might be converted into road kill?  Read on.

In Isaac Asimov’s science fiction book “I, Robot” (1950), he introduced the Three Laws of Robotics.  The three laws are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws

These are a pretty good start, but we all known how it turned out for Will Smith on the recent movie version.  We also know how it turned out for 49 year old Elaine Herzberg, who has the unfortunate distinction of being the first pedestrian killed by an autonomous vehicle.

The German government has already developed 20 rules for autonomous vehicles.  Here in the US at MIT, the Moral Machine experiment explored what actual humans would choose under certain circumstances, and these chooses are being used to develop rules for cars.  You can still click through and participate with the study if you wish.  I clicked over to the survey, and I found the selections were not easy or particularly attractive.  What we are learning, though, is that different cultures have different values when it comes to saving human lives.  So coming up with a “universal” solution will be difficult, but these issues and many others will need to be resolved before autonomous travel can enter the mainstream.

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About the Author:

Cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. Serving small business owners in the St Paul, Minneapolis, and western Wisconsin area since 2001. Cybersecurity and hacking have been a passion of mine since I entered the computer and networking business in 2000. I hold several cybersecurity certifications including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Advanced Security Pratitioner (CASP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Other computer industry certifications include A+, Network+ and Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE). As Cybersecurity Analyst at The WyzCo Group, I help our clients experience high levels of security on their computers, networks, and websites. In addition to consulting on security products and services, we also conduct security audits, vulnerability assessments and full penetration tests. We also work with companies and organizations that need to certify compliance with regulations such as PCI-DSS (credit card processing), HIPAA/HITECH (medical records), and GLBA. We also provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training for clients and their employees. I am a frequent speakers at cybersecurity conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference, the (ISC)2 World Congress, and the ISSA International Conference, and many local community organizations, Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2008.

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