What IF self-driving cars made moral judgments?

Have you ever slammed on your brakes for a squirrel? When you drive your car, you make decisions which impact your life and the lives of those around you. In the case of the squirrel, you decided in a split second. “Do I risk a collision, costing myself and others time, pain, and money, or do I mow down the foolhardy animal?” Now imagine that the squirrel was a child on a bicycle and that your car was making the decision for you. One day in the not-so-distant future, your car might be able to weigh the situation, the likelihood of injury or death to each party, and decide what to do without your input.

Connected and autonomous transportation vehicles (CATV) will drive and “make decisions” according to algorithms. This technology is developing quickly, creating new ethical questions. How do we program “ethical” algorithms? Who decides what is “ethical” for self-driving cars? Will guidelines be mandated, and how will compliance be assured and tested? How do we handle the bias that appears to emerge from machine learning algorithms?

Discovery Park’s Purdue Policy Research Institute (PPRI) addresses these issues and more during their CATV Ethics & Policy workshop series where Purdue researchers and outside experts discuss the research needs in relation to the ethical, legal, and social implications of CATVs. The third workshop, Ethics in Algorithms, will take place on January 23, and it will focus specifically on the ethical considerations regarding the algorithms which govern CATV operation.

These workshops are PPRI’s response to concerns presented at a roundtable discussion at the U.S. Capitol with the Howard Baker Forum, policymakers, industry leaders, academics, and other stakeholders. Each engaging workshop will produce a report addressing where we are in knowledge and policy, where we could go, and recommendations for how to get there.

Panelists for January 23 include:

Jean-Françoise Bonnefon, Behavioral Scientist – Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab

Dr. Bonnefon is an expert on moral preferences for self-driving cars and is one of the creators of the “Moral Machine”.

Chris Clifton, Professor, Computer Science – Purdue University

Dr. Clifton is an expert on data privacy and big data ethics.

Ryan Jenkins, Assistant Professor, Philosophy – California Polytechnic State University

Dr. Jenkins is an expert in ethics and emerging technologies

Learn more and register at Eventbrite page

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