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November 27, 2012

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It should plow forward solely on pragmatic grounds -- otherwise nobody would ever buy one.

Here is some layman input.

It should take the drivers perspective. I am convinced that self-driving cars would be involved in fewer accidents. If people were suspicious of self-driving cars, fewer would be sold on average resulting in a higher aggregate accident rate (and thereby more deaths).

In the New Yorker they talk about a future in which all cars (and buses) are self-driving and that they communicate with each other. This scenario significantly reduces the likelihood of a bus cutting in front of you in a way that "startles" the car. It's harder to come up with examples for this, perhaps a buggy bus, or maybe a sudden wind that puts the bus off balance and it has to compensate. But then again, (ideally) the bus-program should know about the weather in advance and compensate accordingly.

And how will the car know that there are lots of children on the bus? Did the bus tell the car "Move over, I've got 40 innocent children!". How can we trust this information, it could very well be false, and the bus is really the escape vehicle for a murderous bank-robber.

Yes, the idea that they should use the driver's point of view so that drivers will get them is a good reason to go with the driver's point of view.

But now suppose they were required, like seat-belts or air bags. Suppose you can no longer buy a person-driven car, or, that you can take off the auto-pilot only on specially designated "human-error-prone" roads.

And suppose that buses and cars do indeed signal how many people are on board, and trucks signal what sorts of dangerous chemicals are on board, so the computers have the information they need to make the decisions.

Now should we use the neutral point of view for them? Note, for each individual, the odds of living longer go up that way. But still, your car might not do what you want it to.

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