Articles

“Artificial Ethics: Self-Driving Cars Making Life and Death Decisions,” FJA Journal

March 19, 2020

By Diana L. Martin

As we begin a new year, we are all no doubt grateful for the blessings in our lives, including the ability to achieve justice for our clients through the legal system. But, to be honest, aren’t you a little disappointed that it is now 2020 and there is no real prospect of traveling by flying car in sight? Many of us grew up believing 2020 was the year cars would take flight. Now some manufacturers estimate 2025 is the earliest commercial flying vehicles will hit the market, while analysts believe it could take much longer.

We may not have flying cars yet, but the age of the self-driving car has begun. To many, the idea of sitting passively in a car that does the hard work of navigating through traffic is appealing. But plaintiffs’ lawyers likely find the idea terrifying. We know how companies cut corners and send products to market too soon without adequate safety testing. We know how manufacturers have been willing to risk the safety of consumers in order to maximize profits by using cheaper tempered glass instead of laminated glass, and by using airbag inflators that were known to be ticking time bombs. And we know manufacturers have been all too willing to hide dangerous product defects from the public. One can easily imagine how self-driving vehicles that are not subject to human direction and control will lead to increased opportunity for the manifestation of product defects.

Truly self-driving cars will not only have the same potential for traditional product defects as other automobiles, like faulty seat belts, bad airbags, etc., but there will also be potential for defect in the cars’ “brains” — the artificial intelligence programming that will enable these vehicles to completely eliminate the need for a driver. Part of this programming must include a system of artificial ethics to guide a self-driving vehicle when making life and death decisions.

The complete article can be accessed here.