Global Gamers Happy With Robots Choosing Who Lives in Car Crash

A survey has found video gamers are generally comfortable with an autonomous vehicle deciding who to swerve towards if a collision becomes unavoidable.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Media Lab questioned 2 million online gamers in 233 countries about their thoughts on AVs for the Moral Machine Experiment research paper being published in the new issue of the journal Nature. The survey’s central question focused on the ‘trolley problem’; this is a scenario in which a car cannot avoid crashing into a set of people, and so a decision must be made as to which one to veer toward.

Edmond Awad, the paper’s lead author, said: “The study is basically trying to understand the kinds of moral decisions that driverless cars might have to resort to … we don’t know yet how they should do that”. He added that the three main conclusions from the survey’s results were that the gamers questioned had preferences for human life to be prioritized over animal life, for the greatest possible number of human lives to be spared, and for children’s lives to be spared at the expense of those of the elderly.

However, the last viewpoint was less widely held among respondents in eastern countries than those in southern countries, Awad added. Co-author and Media Lab associate professor Iyad Rahwan claimed the study aimed “to provide a simple way for the public to engage in an important societal discussion”.

The survey involved the respondents playing an online game called the Moral Machine in which they were faced with a number of potential ‘trolley problems’, including whether an AV should run over jaywalking criminals or innocent pedestrians, with most participants choosing the former option. Awad also claimed the study’s findings should be used to inform software development and wider societal discourses around AVs.


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