driverless car

Driverless cars must prioritise children’s lives over anything else, says AA survey

The majority of people would want driverless cars to prioritise saving the lives of children over themselves in a crash, according to a new survey.

More than 21,000 AA members were asked what action they would prefer from a fully automated car if two children were to run into the road in front of the vehicle and it could not stop.

Out of three possible scenarios, swerving into the back of a parked lorry - endangering the passenger’s life - was chosen by 59 per cent of respondents.

Just 4 per cent of those polled wanted their car to carry straight on and run over the children, while 2 per cent chose swerving to run into an elderly couple on the pavement.

More than a third (34 per cent) said they would prefer not to give their preference, which the AA claimed highlights the ethical dilemma faced by driverless car developers.

Edmund King, the organisation’s president, said: “Of those who could make a choice, a clear majority decided to put themselves in danger, perhaps indicating they accept the risks and potential fallibilities of the technology.

“The driverless dilemma is a common question for programmers of autonomous vehicles. The number of people who avoided giving a definitive answer shows this is a difficult live-or-let-die dilemma.”

Many believe driverless cars to be safer than those driven by humans, because sensors, cameras and radar systems will allow them to respond faster to events.

In November 2018, the Law Commission opened a consultation on what new road rules should be introduced to enable driverless cars to be used.

The questions include whether an automated vehicle should be allowed to mount the pavement or cross a white line to let an emergency vehicle through, as human drivers often do.

It was also announced in November that self-driving buses will be trialled across the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland from 2020 in a 14-mile route that will allow passengers to experience self-driving technology. 

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