Will Consumers Buy Selfish Self-Driving Cars?

The article discusses the ethical challenges faced by makers of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in prioritizing the safety of passengers over bystanders. It recounts a past statement by a Mercedes-Benz executive prioritizing passenger safety, which received backlash. The author notes that human drivers already make implicit safety trade-offs and questions if customers would be comfortable with AVs that encode similar preferences. The research indicates that people tend to be more outraged by AVs prioritizing passengers. Additionally, participants were asked about programming choices in close-call scenarios, with a majority favoring no preference for AVs. The findings suggest that carmakers should avoid overt appeals to self-interest in safety design discussions. The article also mentions Tesla’s approach to allowing customers to choose driving modes and highlights the importance of minimizing overall risk. It concludes by suggesting that there are engineering and marketing strategies for AVs that don’t appeal to selfish impulses.