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posted by janrinok on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:43AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the no-more-heroes dept.

The technology is new, but the moral conundrum isn't: A self-driving car identifies a group of children running into the road. There is no time to stop. To swerve around them would drive the car into a speeding truck on one side or over a cliff on the other, bringing certain death to anybody inside.

To anyone pushing for a future for autonomous cars, this question has become the elephant in the room, argued over incessantly by lawyers, regulators, and ethicists; it has even been at the center of a human study by Science. Happy to have their names kept in the background of the life-or-death drama, most carmakers have let Google take the lead while making passing reference to ongoing research, investigations, or discussions.

But not Mercedes-Benz. Not anymore.

The world's oldest car maker no longer sees the problem, similar to the question from 1967 known as the Trolley Problem, as unanswerable. Rather than tying itself into moral and ethical knots in a crisis, Mercedes-Benz simply intends to program its self-driving cars to save the people inside the car. Every time.

Is it really a decision based on morality, or because choosing to save the pedestrians is much harder to code?


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  • (Score: 3, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:49AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:49AM (#413289)

    Pedestrians are walking because they're poor. If the lives of pedestrians had any value then they would be driving instead of walking.

    • (Score: 2) by Some call me Tim on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:09AM

      by Some call me Tim (5819) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:09AM (#413301)

      Bullshit! They're walking because they choose to. Even my small town (50,000) has very low cost public transit.

      --
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      • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:29AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:29AM (#413312)

        Let's see the demographic data for your small town, and then the ridership statistics. Let's see if the poorest blackest people all ride the bus. And oh yeah, shitbrain. Have YOU ridden the bus lately? Or ever? And here's a question to blow your fucking mind, asswipe. When was the last time you gave more than a dollar to a beggar on the bus? I did, Monday of this week.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:33AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:33AM (#413314)

          When was the last time you gave more than a dollar to a beggar on the bus? I did, Monday of this week.

          That was you? Thanks, AC, you made my day!

          • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:37AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:37AM (#413316)

            You're welcome, and I hope the sandwich you bought with the money was a good one.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:07AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:07AM (#413339)

              You're welcome, and I hope the crackrock you bought with the money was a good one.

              FTFY

        • (Score: 2) by nukkel on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:09PM

          by nukkel (168) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:09PM (#413536)

          I'll have you know, that dollar will go fully towards maintaining his alcohol consumption habit.
          Good on you!

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:42AM

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:42AM (#413334) Homepage Journal

        So, in your small town, everyone can drive from their front porch, to the office, and never walk in traffic, even to cross the street?

        We are ALL pedestrians. Unless you're a Trump or a Clinton, you walk. Doesn't matter much that you only have to walk ten miles per week, versus some poor slob who walks 100 miles every week. The real question here is, who has the right of way, vehicles or pedestrians?

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        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:20AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:20AM (#413359)

          It's the same as the question, "Who has the right of way, the Ford or the Toyota?" And the answer is the same: "It depends on what they are doing."

        • (Score: 2) by Bot on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:31AM

          by Bot (3902) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:31AM (#413368) Journal

          We are ALL pedestrians.
          But some pedestrians are more equal than others. Think in terms of risk.

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          Account abandoned.
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by davester666 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:04AM

      by davester666 (155) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:04AM (#413350)

      Exactly. And when cars start being able to talk to each other when they are nearby, it will go one step further. The car with the most valuable occupants will be determined to be the one to be "saved" if a crash is found to be inevitable.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Bot on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:23AM

        by Bot (3902) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:23AM (#413362) Journal

        Lads, you are so last century.
        There will be a real-time auction between insurance companies so that the guys with a cheaper life insurance policy payment are selected as the main victims.
        Of course this takes precious milliseconds off the reaction time, so I guess the preferred victims will be given a score in advance.

        On the plus side, we will finally have a life insurance that ensures life. This stroke of honesty must be a first in the universe of finance.

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        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by lentilla on Wednesday October 12 2016, @02:09PM

          by lentilla (1770) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @02:09PM (#413436)

          so I guess the preferred victims will be given a score in advance.

          Well done, but you stopped short... you should be charging people to opt-in to a "Preferentially Insured Program" - like they do for pre-screening for air travel. One can't just give something like pre-scoring away for free!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:10AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:10AM (#413352)

      Pedestrians are on the roadway because they are crossing it, and not even rich people cross streets using vehicles. People walking on the road without sidewalks are required to use road shoulder to do so, and walk in a single width column. If they don't, then it is only their fault if they get hit by a car.

      This whole debate is pointless. The laws already regulated all situations and assigned blames for every accident. All the moral questions were previously discussed, resolved and are already codified in the law. It just needs to get programmed into decision making computer code.

      • (Score: 4, Funny) by art guerrilla on Wednesday October 12 2016, @11:18AM

        by art guerrilla (3082) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @11:18AM (#413393)

        thanks for triggering my rant:
        drive to work on rural roads, one where it is 55 MPH and i am driving directly into the sunrise, and with the glare of the sun, the glare off the hood, the visor pulled down, i ALMOST hit two stupid kids walking TWO FEET inside the road edge (with NO paved bicycle lane/shoulder), where i didn't see them until i whizzed by at 55+, just *barely* missing the retards... of course, if i had hit them, it would have been 'my fault', even though they were so stupid they metaphysically deserved to be darwined... stupid shits, they couldn't shift two feet over OFF the fucking road until i went by because they would have gotten a grass seed on the cuff of their pants or something...
        and the ultimate cause: stupid city mice who don't know shit about living in the country and think schlepping down a rural highway is the same as their suburban cul-de-sac...
        same type of 'tards who stand 3-4' inside the road waiting for their bus on another 55MPH road, WHEN THERE IS A SIDEWALK RIGHT NEXT TO THEM... HOW STUPID can people (i don't care their age) be ? ? ? apparently, life-threateningly stupid...
        don't get me started on all the idiot parents who drive their precious stupid, fat, ugly snowflakes to the end of their rural lane, and wait for the stupid bus... STOP BABYING your stupid, fat, ugly monsters, NOBODY wants to kidnap those 'tards except their estranged parents... AND they get to the point where they not only DO NOT pull off to the SIDE of the road, but sit RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE, RIGHT AT THE STOP SIGN... then, another 'tard parent parks right next to them so they can chat about how stupid and fat and ugly their stupid, fat, ugly monsters are, NEARLY BLOCKING THE WHOLE INTERSECTION because they are too stupid, fat and ugly to realize or care how inconsiderate they are being so they can baby their stupid, fat, ugly 'tards...
        grrrrr...

        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by rts008 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @11:36AM

          by rts008 (3001) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @11:36AM (#413395)

          Sounds like an ironclad case of you are driving too fast for conditions to me, not pedestrians, being the problem.

          • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:14PM

            by darkfeline (1030) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:14PM (#413540) Homepage

            And I'm sure the two boys, if they were struck and killed, would be thrilled to know that they were in the legal right.

            See, the problem with victim blame shaming is that, yes, it's not the victim's fault, but assuming that the victim didn't want to be victimized, they could have made some "common sense" choices to avoid becoming victims. Reality doesn't care if you think you should have the right to walk across a freeway or through a dark alley in an unsafe neighborhood, you are just fucking yourself over, and no amount of legal recompense will fix that; unless of course your goal was repayment, in which case blaming the victim feels rather justified.

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          • (Score: 2) by lgw on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:38PM

            by lgw (2836) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:38PM (#413629)

            The laws of physics don't care who is driving too fast for conditions. Look after your own ass when walking.

            Also, in the country, "driving too fast for conditions" is the cityboy way to say "driving".

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Bot on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:14AM

      by Bot (3902) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:14AM (#413355) Journal

      Good explanation, but it does not take into account the krautness of Mercedes.

      Just to trace the way German engineers think:
      - the objective of self driving cars is? replacing the driver with algorithms and sensors
      - the mercedes driver is, statistically speaking, an asshole
      - therefore the algorithm must be an asshole
      - if choosing between sacrificing self and mowing tender schoolchildren, what would the asshole do?
      and here is the explanation.

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      • (Score: 5, Funny) by dyingtolive on Wednesday October 12 2016, @12:11PM

        by dyingtolive (952) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @12:11PM (#413400)

        It's actually a well known fact that the a Mercedes doesn't actually move itself. The driver gets into the car and then the world revolves around them.

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      • (Score: 2) by nukkel on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:15PM

        by nukkel (168) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:15PM (#413541)

        Remember, Hitler rode a Mercedes.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:01PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:01PM (#413613)

        A good friend (he happened to be from mainland China) used the phrase, "Sadistic German engineering" when he was repairing his VW Microbus, so many things were difficult for no good reason. Same when he had a Porsche 914, which used a VW engine. Perhaps Mercedes falls into the same category.

      • (Score: 2) by lgw on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:46PM

        by lgw (2836) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:46PM (#413633)

        You seem to the confusing Mercedes drivers with BMW drivers.

        At least here in the states, Mercedes drivers tend to be people who are doing better than their backgrounds would suggest (first-generation immigrants, first-generation middle class, whatever), who are insucre about their social status. It's the car that says "no, really, I'm successful, please accept me!". 1%ers also commonly drive Mercedes E-Class sedans, but they're a small percentage of BMW drivers.

        BMW, OTOH, makes inverted porcupines (the pricks are on the inside).

        Audi has a weird mix of hipsters looking for the best VW, car nerds who love Quattro, and people who don't want to be seen as a Mercedes driver or BMW driver.

      • (Score: 2) by archfeld on Wednesday October 12 2016, @11:57PM

        by archfeld (4650) <treboreel@live.com> on Wednesday October 12 2016, @11:57PM (#413704) Journal

        I read somewhere that a standard clause in German car insurance stipulates that if you swerve to miss a dog and then hit an inanimate object and suffer property damage your insurance will NOT cover said damage.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @12:36PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @12:36PM (#413406)

      Wait, I'm poor? Seems they forgot to tell me! I guess I must have overlooked a minus sign on my bank account balance, as it looked quite positive to me.

      But hey, maybe I'm not really walking. Maybe this is just a simulation, and I'm secretly being put into a van as soon as I leave home, to be let out again when I reach my destination.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by FatPhil on Wednesday October 12 2016, @12:53PM

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Wednesday October 12 2016, @12:53PM (#413412) Homepage
      My g/f and I are almost certainly in the top decile financially in the country where we live. Howevr, we walk everywhere that's within a kilometer or two. Neither of us own a car. Neither of us even has a driving license, as public transport everywhere we've lived has always been quick, cheap, and easy. (The only exception being her youth, which was on the other side of the pond, where it sucked.)
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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by captain normal on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:53AM

    by captain normal (2205) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:53AM (#413291)

    In California the pedestrian has the right of way. So if such a Mercedes injures or kills one or more pedestrians, does the owner or the car company face attempted murder or manslaughter charges.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:00AM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:00AM (#413295) Homepage Journal

      I believe that is true in every state, with few exceptions. The interstate highways would be one exception. It's against the law to hitchhike, ride horses, motorized bicycles, farm implements, go-karts, or anything other than licensed, insured motor vehicles. There may be some other exceptions to the rule, but almost anywhere you can find pedestrians, those pedestrians have the right of way over any means of conveyance. Other countries may have their own laws, of course.

      Oh - airports. Pedestrians most certainly don't have the right of way on a runway, but that's really reaching for exceptions.

      --
      Taking bets: When does Biden's approval rating reach 15%?
      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @03:07PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @03:07PM (#413473)

        Some places allow pedestrians to utilize interstates. Colorado allows bicyclists to use the interstate in some places. That doesn't make them very smart bicyclists though.

      • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:23PM

        by darkfeline (1030) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:23PM (#413546) Homepage

        >those pedestrians have the right of way over any means of conveyance

        Uh, no? Pedestrians have right of way at crosswalks, and at traffic lights, only when their walk signal is green/go. Anywhere else is jaywalking, illegal, they have no right of way. While vehicles are expected to yield out of human compassion, it is the pedestrian's fault if the driver doesn't have time to react (within reason).

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        • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:04PM

          by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:04PM (#413590) Homepage Journal

          Within reason. Good luck with reasoning with a jury, if you should be so unlucky as to hit a pedestrian almost anywhere. Unless there is a very specific law that forbids pedestrian traffic, or restricting pedestrian traffic, then the ped has the right of way.

          We don't see a whole lot of crosswalks in this part of the country. And, there are no walk signals.

          The only jaywalking ticket I've ever seen, was given to me in San Diego. The moment the cop looked away, I tossed that into a trash can. Not all of us are city dwellers.

          But, even in New York, people go where they want to go. Downtown Manhattan? Yeah, you pretty much stay with intersections and crosswalks, because there is no other safe way to cross the street. Cross the river into Brooklyn, and the rules are pretty much the same as out here in the country.

          One thing is certain - I always yeild to pedestrians, no matter where I'm at. Even on the interstate, which I've noted above is generally illegal for pedestrians.

          --
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          • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Thursday October 13 2016, @03:31AM

            by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 13 2016, @03:31AM (#413754) Journal

            Once a cop gave me a warning for jaywalking-- on a college campus, on a route I'd taken dozens of times. Was on sidewalks the whole time, which were obviously meant for pedestrians.

            I was like, WTF? Okay, what happened? Something had to have happened for the cops to be scurrying around chasing down pedestrians. I didn't know I was on the only campus in the whole state of Texas that didn't give pedestrians right of way, and the previous week there'd been an incident in which a car struck a pedestrian. Well that exception to the norm didn't last long after that. About two weeks later, the university changed the rules to give pedestrians right of way everywhere on campus.

            Anyway, why not move pedestrians above the streets? Put the whole dang sidewalk at about the level of the 3rd story of an average apartment. Make most of the buildings at least 3 stories tall, and connect their 3rd floors to the walkway. I know, I know, it would be very expensive. But nowhere near as much as we've already spent on automobile roads.

            • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Thursday October 13 2016, @01:34PM

              by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 13 2016, @01:34PM (#413880) Homepage Journal

              Not a bad idea at all - in denseley populated areas. Wouldn't work well in most of Small Town America, but it makes sense in the big cities. No more waiting for a safe gap in traffic, no more conforming to crosswalk and green "walk" nonsense. Just connect all the buildings up in the air, and be done with it. Architecture would be a major pain, though. Every person who owns a building within the connected maze is going to raise some sort of objection. "Dude, it's the LAW! You've got to provide access to the walkway, it's just that simple! Now we can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way, but you WILL eventually compromise with us!"

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        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:46PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:46PM (#413608)

          Anywhere else is jaywalking, illegal, they have no right of way.

          WRONG! You vehicularly murderous person, you! Pedestrians always have the right of way, even when they are jaywalkiing, because they are soft and smooshy, while most vehicles are not.

          • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:58PM

            by HiThere (866) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:58PM (#413612) Journal

            But you know, even though sail has right of way over steam, a liner can't avoid a sailboat.

            There's "right of way" and then there's sense. You don't walk in front of a truck&trailer that's moving. It can't reasonably stop.

            This whole area is just full of edge cases, so I agree with the summary, they probably did it to make implementation simpler.

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @10:54PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @10:54PM (#413679)

        you do not live in KY. I have seen Combines going down the freeway, blocking all lanes and it is just fine.

        CA also has basic speed law, that means you cannot go any faster than what is front of you, IF that is person and you hit them, you were speeding, period. But they also have an anti-blocking law. So if you are driving a tractor down the road and more than 5 vehicles are blocked by you from going the speed limit, you must pull to right at next available spot and stop, allowing for the trailing vehicles to pass.

    • (Score: 2) by Some call me Tim on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:07AM

      by Some call me Tim (5819) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:07AM (#413299)

      While this is true, pedestrians also have a duty to make sure the way is clear. In other words, some dickhead wearing headphones and stepping out into traffic is not free and clear if a car that has the right of way hits him. Pedestrians also have some responsibility for their own safety. I've seen more than a few peds try to cross against the light and cause accidents from motorists trying to avoid them.

      --
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      • (Score: 1) by Francis on Wednesday October 12 2016, @02:42PM

        by Francis (5544) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @02:42PM (#413454)

        What duty? They have a responsibility to themselves to be on the look out for things like this because the court can't order them back to life or uninjured. But, there's no legal obligation for them to do that at the present. It just influences the charges that are brought and the ultimate amount of financial liability for the driver.

        It's similar to drivers driving defensively, you do that out of self-interest, not because you have some sort of obligation to do it.

        There are some situations like jaywalking where it might be legal to run them over, but even there, it's a really, really bad idea to do that if you can avoid it. Chances are that if you can see them a couple seconds ahead of time and don't at least try to stop, that you'll wind up in prison.

    • (Score: 2) by Entropy on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:20AM

      by Entropy (4228) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:20AM (#413329)

      It's stupid for a pedestrian to have right of way if they walk into the middle of a highway(not at a crosswalk). In most parts of the country if they do this and get mowed down it's their own fault...try to be less stupid in your next life.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:52AM

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:52AM (#413337) Homepage Journal

        It's a combination of history, and common sense. Pedestrians should have the right of way. As I pointed out above, we are all pedestrians. Unless you keep your car in your living room, you have to walk to the car. And, unless you park inside your office, you have to walk to the car again to go home.

        The history bit? Well, when motor vehicle laws were being written, automobiles weren't so ubiquitous as they are today. Cars were rare, and lawmakers weren't inclined to grant special rights to car owners. Drive at your own risk, and if you kill someone walking to the store, it's your ass.

        No blanket rule really applies anymore. Today, there are a lot of places where pedestrians really shouldn't be found. The busy intersection in front of Walmart, the previously mentioned interstate highways, and probably more. But, we all have to walk. What about school zones? God help you if you kill a kid in a marked school zone. Doesn't matter if you were only doing 25 MPH, and the kid lowered his head and ran into your car like a goat. It's still going to be your ass.

        Downtown in most towns and small cities? Pedestrians rule. Just accept it. Any park expects you to park the damned car, and enjoy the park on foot. Amusment centers, of any type or size.

        I am a rather aggressive driver, but there are times and places where you need to just slow down, and yeild the right of way to whoever, and whatever.

        And, even if that pedestrian has absolutely no business in whatever place I happen to find him, I certainly don't want to hit him going at highway speeds. It'll screw up your car, it'll screw up your day, and it'll screw up your insurance.

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        • (Score: 2) by Entropy on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:50PM

          by Entropy (4228) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:50PM (#413634)

          There are clearly some "pedestrian zones", for lack of a better word. Areas where pedestrians are the primary, and cars need to yield no matter what. Some examples include crosswalks, sidewalks, probably parking lots, and such. Large cities function differently from the rest of the world, of course. In NYC being a pedestrian is a totally different thing than somewhere like Idaho.

          In my opinion a rural or suburban school zone doesn't qualify because most schools are on their own roads nowadays, but they still infect the nearest actual road with a school zone completely annihilating traffic. Does this mean pedestrians should be able to violate pedestrian laws and cross at random points/odd angles/lay in the street? No. It means we should go slower to try to increase safety but not immunize idiocy. If someone is 12 and thinks sitting in the street is OK the world is probably better off if they are waffled.

          In most areas(not large cities) we are no longer a pedestrian society. Except for areas designated for pedestrians cars need to have right of way. If someone wants to risk crossing a highway in dark clothes at night good luck to them, but if they are waffled it's on them.

        • (Score: 3, Funny) by lgw on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:57PM

          by lgw (2836) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:57PM (#413639)

          Pedestrians should have the right of way.

          Get a car, hippie.

          Unless you keep your car in your living room, you have to walk to the car. And, unless you park inside your office, you have to walk to the car again to go home.

          Most places in the US have parking lots adjacent. I'm pretty sure I've never in my life had to cross a street on foot to get from my living room to my car. Do you live someplace with no parking? Why would you do that?

          Pedestrians rule. Just accept it.

          Get a car, hippie.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @10:15AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @10:15AM (#413383)

      So if such a Mercedes injures or kills one or more pedestrians, does the owner or the car company face attempted murder or manslaughter charges.

      This is not informative, this is bullshit.

      1. pedestrians do not have the right of walking in path of a car and expect it to be able to stop in impossible situations.
      2. see #1

      You see, the world of law is not "black and white" like you seem to believe.

      Right of way means that cars cannot expect you to yield. That's all. What the program just needs to do is determine if it is possible to avoid a crash without causing injuries to occupants of the car *AND* additional injuries to outside pedestrians, whatevers. The simple and correct solution is to break and avoid crashing into things. If you cannot avoid crashing into things without crashing into bigger things, you just break.

      If pedestrians step out in front of the car, right of way does not reduce their liability in causing that crash.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @12:45PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @12:45PM (#413409)

        There's a difference between "break" and "brake". You might want to learn that difference, because your post doesn't say what you probably meant it to say.

      • (Score: 1) by Francis on Wednesday October 12 2016, @02:29PM

        by Francis (5544) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @02:29PM (#413448)

        They absolutely do have the right to do that. Just not all the time everywhere. If what you said were true, then vehicular manslaughter wouldn't be a thing in cases like that.

        Also, the correct thing for the car to do is to kill the people in the vehicle if it assesses that the number that would be killed would be smaller. I'm a bit skeptical that the sensors are good enough to know how many people would be involved in the possibilities, but assuming the car can accurately sense the number of people, the correct thing to do would be to kill the occupants of the car to save the larger number of people.

        This isn't a moral dilemma, it's something that's treated like a moral dilemma because the people who driver Mercedes are rich, but it's really not a moral dilemma. A moral dilemma would be if the car should pull into oncoming traffic killing 2 people in order to save a small number of pedestrians. That would at least be some sort of dilemma. But, again, the answer would be to pull into oncoming traffic in that scenario.

    • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:45PM

      by deimtee (3272) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:45PM (#413558) Journal

      There is no legal concept of "right of way" such that you can drive through someone else. What there is, is a "requirement to yield" in certain situations. Like facing a stop sign or a give way sign, being on the minor road at an intersection, etc.
      In most places, avoiding a foreseeable accident is also a reason to yield, such that if you could avoid an accident but don't then you will be considered legally at fault. You never have the right to crash into someone/something.

      --
      No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by aristarchus on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:54AM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:54AM (#413292) Journal

    Yes, that would be Americans! But only slightly less known is the fact that Mercedes owners are upper class pricks, and that BMW drivers should not be allowed to actually drive an automobile, let alone own one. No surprise that Mercedes would defend its occupant over a pedestrian. After all, the pedestrian is a pedestrian, and so by definition poor. Why else would they be walking, instead of cruising in air-conditioned comfort and luxury? Except, wait, that pedestrian, who my car has just decided to sacrifice to save my very important life? He is holding a .44 Magnum, the most powerful production handgun in existence. Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?

    --
    Die Republikkkanische Partei isst die weissvolken partei.
    • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:35AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:35AM (#413315)

      Depends on whether you bought the bulletproof windows.

      • (Score: 2, Flamebait) by aristarchus on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:34AM

        by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:34AM (#413332) Journal

        And whether said .44 caliber was packing depleted Uranium Armor-piercing 265 gr. vacuum-filled projectiles, backed by 55 grs. of the finest nitrocellulose smokeless with a muzzle velocity in excess of . . . . Damn, got runned over before I could finish the whole ammosexual routine. Don't you just hate it when that happens? At least it wasn't an auto, those are for people who cannot aim.

        --
        Die Republikkkanische Partei isst die weissvolken partei.
    • (Score: 2) by t-3 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:12AM

      by t-3 (4907) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:12AM (#413341) Journal

      Since when is Mercedes-Benz not a German company?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @10:13AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @10:13AM (#413381)

        Mercedes-Benz is a car brand, not a company. The company making that car is called Daimler (formerly Daimler-Benz, but they dropped the Benz part when they bought Chrysler, forming Daimler-Chrysler, and did not re-add it after selling Chrysler).

        However both the brand and the company are indeed German.

    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Wednesday October 12 2016, @01:27PM

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Wednesday October 12 2016, @01:27PM (#413419) Homepage
      I thought you were a brit? In which case you should know the difference between the upper class and the upper middle class. Merc and Beamer owners (Volvo, Lexus, Audi, etc. too) fall predominantly in the latter.
      --
      I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
      • (Score: 2) by lgw on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:00PM

        by lgw (2836) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:00PM (#413640)

        Mercedes E-Class sedans are actually reasonably popular upper-class cars - very practical, safe, and not too showy. But, as you say, that's a tiny percentage of Mercedes owners.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by aristarchus on Thursday October 13 2016, @04:38AM

        by aristarchus (2645) on Thursday October 13 2016, @04:38AM (#413768) Journal

        I thought you were a brit?

        Where on earth did you get that idea? A brit? Do you mean a member of the natus of Britannica. or their associated nations? No I am Greek, more properly an Ionian Greek, for those of you who know the difference. I am from Samos. The luxury cars came in with the Italians, or as we used to call them, the Romans. They had a thing for building roads, and those roads had very gentle curves for the most part, for some reason. Were the Romans foreseeing Lamborginis? We Greeks make sure there are a lot of tight curves on our roads, to slow down the Germans, Americans, and pedestrian devouring Mercedes-Benzes.

        --
        Die Republikkkanische Partei isst die weissvolken partei.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by maxwell demon on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:55AM

    by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:55AM (#413293) Journal

    I guess they deciding factor was coming neither from the ethicist nor from the coders, but from the marketing department: They probably decided that most customers would value their own safety higher than the safety of others, so cars that do the same will sell better. Remember, in the end there's only one value that counts for corporations: shareholder value.

    --
    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by RedBear on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:03AM

      by RedBear (1734) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:03AM (#413323)

      I guess they deciding factor was coming neither from the ethicist nor from the coders, but from the marketing department: They probably decided that most customers would value their own safety higher than the safety of others, so cars that do the same will sell better. Remember, in the end there's only one value that counts for corporations: shareholder value.

      Came in here to say this, basically. But to extend this, it's not like the car will be programmed to go around killing pedestrians. It will be programmed to follow all the normal driving conventions any other driver follows. It just won't be programmed to jerk the wheel into opposing traffic when some a-hole pedestrian suddenly jumps in front of your car when you're moving at 35mph. That's about the only sort of situation where I can imagine the vehicle might actually end up being a real danger to a pedestrian. Unless your car starts self-driving drunk I highly doubt it will present a danger to anyone just because its priority will be to try to keep its own passengers alive in a crash situation. I don't think it's either logical or practical to ask the vehicle's driving logic to attempt to somehow save everything and everyone involved in a split-second accident scenario. Even a human driver can't reliably make good decisions in those situations. It makes perfect sense to me to tell every vehicle to drive responsibly and defensively and protect its own occupants. That doesn't mean pedestrians will be regularly menaced and sacrificed by self-driving vehicles outside of incredibly bizarre and unavoidable circumstances.

      --
      ¯\_ʕ◔.◔ʔ_/¯ LOL. I dunno. I'm just a bear.
      ... Peace out. Got bear stuff to do. 彡ʕ⌐■.■ʔ
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Unixnut on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:18AM

        by Unixnut (5779) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:18AM (#413328)

        It is something I think most people have an uncomfortable feeling if they admit to themselves, but unless you really are a selfless and pure and fully willing to sacrifice yourself for others, most people will want a self driving car that protects them at all costs. Presumably once someone has kids, this extends to the progeny as well.

        Self-preservation is one of the core tenants of being a living being, it isn't even a specifically human trait, as most life strives towards it. As such deep down most people, whether they get into a car, or out on a street, or doing anything really, will want to maximise their chances of survival. It might not even be a conscious decision, just self selected via evolution (you can guess why).

        I don't think it is a "rich" vs "poor" thing either, most people no matter their income, will want to maximise their chances of living.

        Mercedes are just the first to come out and say it. Not that I like the concept of self driving cars myself (I have many reasons, one of which is having others program morality that decides my fate into a machine) , but I admit that programming them like this may well make them more palatable.

        I mean, If the roles were reversed, and you programmed a car that sacrificed its occupants for strangers every time, how many people would buy those cars? Or want to even get in one, knowing that if push came to shove, they will be sacrificed, no ifs or buts?

        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:51AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:51AM (#413336)

          > It is something I think most people have an uncomfortable feeling if they admit to themselves, but unless you really are a selfless and pure and fully willing to sacrifice yourself for others, most people will want a self driving car that protects them at all costs. Presumably once someone has kids, this extends to the progeny as well.

          I make no claim to be selfless and pure.. however, I still would want the car to prioritise the pedestrian's safety. The reason isn't even particularly ethic based.

          My vehicle is jam-packed full of gear that aims to protect me (and the others in it) in the event of it hitting another solid object at speed. Airbags, seatbelts, crumple-zones etc. In the case of oncoming traffic, they are also similarly equipped. Excepts buses for some reason (and this really annoys me).

          Pedestrians lack such protection.

          As cars are more equipped to deal with collisions than pedestrians, the onus is on the car to deal with the collision.

          • (Score: 2) by Unixnut on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:28AM

            by Unixnut (5779) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:28AM (#413345)

            But we are not talking about such collisions, because the safety of the car passengers are guaranteed. Such low speed impacts (say 30mph) are obvious and pose no moral dilemma.

            This issue deals with the accidents which will cause the loss of life. That is where the moral ambiguity comes about. Nobody is arguing that cars should mow pedestrians down at 30mph while there is no risk to the safety of passengers in a 30mph crash. This is the "trolley dilemma", where circumstances mean someone is going to die no matter what, and the car has to pick who.

            In fact one of the main arguments given for self driving cars is their lightning fast reactions will mean that there will be no more low-speed collisions at all. So by extension the only collisions that would occur are ones that pose a threat to life, and that is where we get to discuss programmed morals, and having to sacrifice someone.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 13 2016, @10:11AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 13 2016, @10:11AM (#413822)

              If the only collisions we are considering are the high-speed ones (90mph?), the car should still choose to target that which is more likely to result in the preservation of life.

              A car going 90mph and hitting a pedestrian is, if not certainly, pretty close to be considering it is 85% fatal at 40mph IIRC, going to kill the pedestrian.

              However, a car hitting a tree at 90mph still retains the chance of the occupants surviving because, again, it's full of equipment that aims to achieve this in those scenarios.

              Also, a major difference from the trolley problem is that the people in the car chose to be there, whereas the people in the trolley problem tend to be there *contrary* to their desires. If they don't like that the car will risk them over a pedestrian, they can choose another car (or be the pedestrian).

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:42AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:42AM (#413348)

            * They generally travel at relatively low speeds
            * They are driven exclusively by professional drivers
            * Their sheer mass makes them nearly impervious to collisions with passenger vehicles
            * Their ride height keeps their passengers out of the path of most vehicles that would hit them (although the new low-floor city buses reverse this trend in order to simplify boarding of disabled passengers)
            * Passengers probably wouldn't use them anyway, and even the latest airbags are extremely dangerous to unbelted passengers
            * Passengers, if thrown from their seat, will usually impact an adjacent seat rather than being ejected or hitting a hard or sharp surface

            City buses and school buses almost never suffer passenger fatalities, especially in situations where safety devices would have helped. Over-the-road buses are most likely to kill passengers in rollover or loss of control accidents rather than due to collisions.

            Beginning this year, new over-the-road buses are required to have seat belts in the US. However, existing buses are not required to be retrofitted.

        • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Wednesday October 12 2016, @01:37PM

          by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Wednesday October 12 2016, @01:37PM (#413423) Homepage
          > core tenants

          minor nit: tenets

          Unless you meant Tennents, the superstrong lager?
          --
          I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
          • (Score: 2) by Unixnut on Wednesday October 12 2016, @04:54PM

            by Unixnut (5779) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @04:54PM (#413527)

            Why thank thee , thy linguistic pendant!

            and sounds like Tennents might be an idea. A pint to thee for your services! :)

        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by tftp on Thursday October 13 2016, @05:41AM

          by tftp (806) on Thursday October 13 2016, @05:41AM (#413778) Homepage

          There is another direction of thought. The computer is in control of the car and of the passenger. If the car does something, it will happen. It becomes deterministic. However the behavior of the other party (such as a pedestrian) is not deterministic. The car cannot be sure that if it swerves left and hits a tree, the pedestrian will not run forward (or back) and get hit anyway. The probabity of everyone dying is not zero. However if the car ignores the unpredictable pedestrian and always saves the occupant, the probability of both dying is zero, as the passenger survives. (Well, give or take.) For that reason it is statistically advantageous to optimize saving the occupant - the car has better chances to succeed.

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:57AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @05:57AM (#413294)

    If the car is waiting for children at a school crossing, and it detects an imminent rear-impact collision by a truck? It'll break the road rules and mow the children down. Save one life, anyway (who just happens to be a Mercedes customer)?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:02AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:02AM (#413296)

      Net worth of children: zero. It's their own fault for not growing faster.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 13 2016, @05:49PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 13 2016, @05:49PM (#413997)

        Are the children potential Mercedes customers?

        I thought not.

    • (Score: 2) by Some call me Tim on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:14AM

      by Some call me Tim (5819) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:14AM (#413304)

      If that's the case, they're doing it wrong. If they are waiting for kids to pick up, they should be parked in a proper parking/pickup zone.

      --
      Questioning science is how you do science!
    • (Score: 2) by Jesus_666 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:29PM

      by Jesus_666 (3044) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:29PM (#413576)
      I think that if the truck is moving fast enough to kill the car's driver upon rear impact and close enough that an impact at such a speed is inevitable the car doesn't have enough time to accelerate away anyway. Also, the truck would just shove the car into the school children. Let's face it: The kids in your scenario will die no matter what the car does.
  • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:13AM

    by q.kontinuum (532) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:13AM (#413303) Journal

    Let the driver decide, just like it is now. But not with the excuse of not having the time to think or something. Put an rfid reader in a prominent location and sell copyrighted but cheap (or give for free) badges displaying the cars preferences, configuring the car at the same time. Also, make it gradual, like how many pedestrians the driver is willing to sacrifice for the occupants safety, maybe dependant on current number of passengers. It could be reasonable to sacrifice one pedestrian to save two occupants.

    --
    Registered IRC nick on chat.soylentnews.org: qkontinuum
    • (Score: 2) by BsAtHome on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:21AM

      by BsAtHome (889) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:21AM (#413310)

      And demand an external sign on the car to light up, clearly visible for all:
      - This car will kill pedestrians
      - This car will kill the occupants

      What happens if both cars crash into each other?

      • (Score: 4, Funny) by q.kontinuum on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:39AM

        by q.kontinuum (532) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:39AM (#413317) Journal

        As a pedestrian-protector I have the moral high-ground. Since the world is better of with me alive than with a pedestrian-killer, I not only have the right but obviously the obligation to prioritize my own safety over that of the pedestrian-killer ;-)

        --
        Registered IRC nick on chat.soylentnews.org: qkontinuum
        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @01:22PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @01:22PM (#413418)

          What if you're the only organ donor and there could be a net gain in human life?

          • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Wednesday October 12 2016, @02:25PM

            by q.kontinuum (532) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @02:25PM (#413444) Journal

            Like in this movie [youtube.com]? I'd consider it a different topic, but probably that's what makes the ethical discussions so difficult.

            --
            Registered IRC nick on chat.soylentnews.org: qkontinuum
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:21AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:21AM (#413309)

    No one will buy a self-driving car if they know it might deliberately kill them. What's more, if it does so, this could quite possibly create very significant product safety liability for them.

    If you assume the self-driving car is safer than the average driver, it will still save more lives, including more pedestrian lives, by way of being adopted more quickly.

    Additionally, if you assume that the self-driving car always follows the right-of-way rules, in any situation in which it comes in conflict with a pedestrian, that means the pedestrian is in the wrong. While pedestrians have right-of-way, that is only in situations where the pedestrian is moving legally: i.e. on a sidewalk or crosswalk, and obeying traffic signals.

    • (Score: 2) by quintessence on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:09AM

      by quintessence (6227) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:09AM (#413326)

      It would probably be easier just to code for the majority of the laws and let the fickle finger of fate take it from there (at least regardless of circumstances, the law is on your side).

      While it is still probable to bias the system slightly even under those confines, announcing it like MB is just setting the stage for endless litigation even when the system is not at fault.

      Not to mention a vehicle has crumple zones, multiple air bags and a ridgid frame to protect the occupants. Pedestrians do not. And those systems can be made more effective if the entire vehicle design is changed since minimal driver input is needed (indeed, you can start with a robust cage that seats five, and build the rest of the car around that).

      The trolley problem is a bad exercise in framing. Never is the moral implications of the designers of the trolley system in question, the company that didn't have adequate lockout or warning procedures, or the fact that a switch that could cause some severe mischief is so easily accessible. Nope.

      Yet it is upon you to make an instantaneous decision about a circumstance you had no hand in creating, and let everyone second-guess what you ought have done.

      Fuck that world.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @01:01PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @01:01PM (#413415)

      > No one will buy a self-driving car if they know it might deliberately kill them.

      I agree, with a slight variation. It is well known people do not care for their own safety on the road. We would drive lean and low cars which let you feel the speed completely if we cared, instead of a too heavy, too high, too insulated SUV.

      What the Mercedes prospective owners do NOT want is to be at the bar and friend says

      "Soo, what happened to your brand new SL that you got instead of your new house?"

      and they have to reply

      "It drove itself into a tree because a drunkyard hobbled in front of it."

      This for a Mercedes owner is worse than death.

  • (Score: 2) by Zz9zZ on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:43AM

    by Zz9zZ (1348) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:43AM (#413319)

    The majority of humans will swerve to miss the group of children, creating millions of cars that will plow through a crowd instead of risk the occupants is morally wrong. I would much rather the occupants take a risk in their fancy crumple zoned airbagged metal cage.

    Sometimes I see the world spinning on around me and I just boggle at the insanity... I've stopped hoping that I'm missing something, that the wizard will step out from the curtain and reveal the master plan that makes sense out of all this shit.

    --
    ~Tilting at windmills~
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Jesus_666 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:52PM

      by Jesus_666 (3044) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:52PM (#413583)
      Note that this is not about a generic "pedestrians in front of the car"-type scenario. That one's easy to solve: Swerve, brake and if a collision happens it will probably happen at sufficiently low speed that nobody dies. Mercedes Benz will most likely program their cars to act exactly like that because that's also how you lower the chance of something bad happening in general.

      This is about a situation where someone is guaranteed to die: If your car goes straight, even with braking, the children who spontaneously ran up a cliff (yes, seriously) die because you ram them at a high speed. If your car swerves to the one side you and all passengers will die because you have a frontal collision with a truck at a high speed. Most likely your car and/or the truck will be flung around and the magical children will also die because they're right next to a high speed car accident. If your car swerves to the other side you and all passengers will die because the car just went down a sufficiently steep cliff to ensure your death. The majority of humans wouldn't swerve because of moral considerations, they'd spend a second being shocked and then do something.

      It's a contrived scenario designed to take a moral dilemma to its logical conclusion: The system absolutely has to kill someone; who does it choose and why? MB decided that in a situation where there doesn't seem to be a reasonable way to keep everyone alive (and thus someone's life must be priorized over everyone else's) the car will priorize the lives of the occupants. That's a pragmatic approach because an ethically pure approach would require them to first solve some rather old ethical dilemmas that may be unsolvable.

      For instance the one with the train tracks: One track has five people tied to it, the other has one. You get to decide which one a train goes down but you can't stop the train. Which is the correct choice? Many people will argue that since it's immoral to assign a value to a human life it's immoral to kill one to save five as their values are incomparable. The car will have to make such a choice, however, if it is programmed to save as many lives as possible.

      MB sidestepped the whole thing by trying to save everyone involved in a dangerous situation but priorize the occupants if that isn't possible. Firstly, that's much easier than calculating which possible outcome will most likely kill the fewest people within a few milliseconds of reaction time. You swerve and brake if reasonably safely possible, otherwise you just brake. Secondly, i's probably better for their image than selling cars that are programmed to kill their occupants in order to potentially save more lives. Since there is no ethically pure way of solving the problem they just went with one that was useful by other metrics.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:44PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:44PM (#413607)

        Your first sentence is wrong. You never want to swerve AND brake simultaneously. Because of the way friction works, you want to do one or the other to maximize the amount of useful force and to ensure you don't exceed the friction circle (friction ellipse, among other names. Not usually elliptical or circular).

        That said, if you do decide to swerve, let go of the accelerator to maximize your control on the swerve.

      • (Score: 2) by Zz9zZ on Thursday October 13 2016, @04:47AM

        by Zz9zZ (1348) on Thursday October 13 2016, @04:47AM (#413770)

        The idea of such a scenario is already in the realm of ridiculous, it is near impossible to guarantee that any given situation would be certain death. I think it is reasonable to program vehicles to swerve, but also avoid running straight into a wall at high speed, or the front end of a bus. So vehicle swerves to miss pedestrian, then swerves back to avoid a direct collision. This isn't a philosophical debate where you get to set up a situation with only two outcomes, such debates are as useful as Schrodinger's cat-box and better left to the university pub.

        My main point is that the fancy Benz has a lot of extra protective measures, and the passengers stand a better chance of a head on collision with a bus than the pedestrian has with the front bumper. Further questions for MB to answer, will the car avoid any collision? Or can it sideswipe a vehicle? As you said, the calculations would take reaction time away. I stand by the idea that the car should do its best to avoid a collision, then do its best with the next scenario of impacting the other lane of traffic.

        --
        ~Tilting at windmills~
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by RamiK on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:56AM

    by RamiK (1813) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:56AM (#413321)

    The EU and most of the western world regulated it with special permits for work-vehicles.

    The US allowed it for Mom's SUVs and Dad's truck and let the courts judge each incident on a case-by-case basis allowing the rich to get away with it and lining up the lawyers pockets.

    Asia, Africa & the middle-east mostly followed the EU's decision or illegalized them altogether depending on geography and wildlife.

    I suspect Mercedes's lawyers and engineers know all this and are Geo-locking the setting to the US as we speak.

    --
    compiling...
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by cccc828 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:07AM

    by cccc828 (2368) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:07AM (#413325)

    The problem is not that you cannot solve the trolley problem (you can weigh lives in numerous ways), the problem, at least in Germany, is that you are not allowed to weigh one live against another. Not even one vs. a million. See also Luftsicherheitsgesetz [wikipedia.org].

    The moment an engineer programs a car to prioritize one life against the other, she/he is potentially liable for the harm caused. That is, by the way, also how it is handled (in Germany) for humans: If you face the trolley problem (however you move your car, you will hit someone), you broke the law and are responsible for the other person's injuries/death. However, the law recognizes that you were in an "emergency situation" and thus you are "excused" and there is no punishment.

    The problem the engineers now face is, that they are not in such an "emergency situation". They are not under stress, they do not face a risk to their life etc. Thus, no traditional reason for an "excuse" applies. In some legal view they are thus liable.

    This issue is hotly debated right now - there is currently no 'legal consensus' . It is also unclear if a pedestrian is "innocent" or if she/he "agrees" to potential harm by being on the streets. Another thought experiment: A car can avoid a fatal crash by moving off the road and going through a hedge. The car does not know what is on the other side of that hedge. There is some probability that there are kids playing behind the hedge/ a person just relaxing in the sun/etc. Is it ok to (potentially) kill someone who does not even participate in the traffic? Where do you draw the line?

    Let's see who is faster: the lawmakers or the courts after an accident...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:32AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:32AM (#413346)

      Thank you for the citation. It is interesting and relevant as Mercedes-Benz is based in Germany. It is also insane. We must allow many innocent people to die, in order to protect the lives of other people who are also going to die. I guess this is what happens when you dedicate a concept as abstract, vague, and subjective as dignity as the most important principle of the state. I am glad I do not live in Germany.

      I guess the cars (or at least the software) will be available for export only, to places where actual lives are valued above philosophical debate.

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by cccc828 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:52AM

        by cccc828 (2368) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:52AM (#413349)

        As a foreigner living in Germany I think it is not the worst of places to live.

        You have to understand the German laws (especially the fundamental ones) in light of the horrors of the NSDAP regime. Back then the needs of the many ("Aryans") outweighed the need of the few ("Untermenschen" roughly "sub-humans"). The guiding principle in Germany is to never again repeat the mistakes from that dark chapter of German history.

        That is also why the court reached that verdict. How to assign a value/utility/probability to die/etc. to a life without laying for the foundations of for the horrors of 1933? It makes sense to rule that way and pass the buck to the parliament and the public to come to a conclusion and write laws to reflect that conclusion.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:28AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:28AM (#413365)

          While I appreciate the Germans' need to be conservative about anything that might lead to repeats of the Nazi regime, the reality is that you must, when in a position of policymaking or safety engineering, always weigh lives. Whether against other lives, political costs, financial costs, or whatever, it must and will happen. When death is your opponent, you cannot refuse to play the game.

          • (Score: 2, Interesting) by cccc828 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @11:11AM

            by cccc828 (2368) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @11:11AM (#413391)

            I agree. There is no question that these problems must be solved for autonomous systems, the discussion currently is how to best solve them. You could for example treat them like vaccines (they might cause side effects and complications), power plants (their exhaust kill/reduce the life span of random people every year), pets, children or even look to ancient slavery laws for inspiration (I am not kidding). These options make for lively discussions amongst legal scholars :)

    • (Score: 2) by JeanCroix on Wednesday October 12 2016, @03:53PM

      by JeanCroix (573) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @03:53PM (#413491)

      ...Luftsicherheitsgesetz.

      Gesundheit.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Entropy on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:33AM

    by Entropy (4228) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @07:33AM (#413331)

    Everyone's argument is always going to be child porn(strike that), I mean children. This is far more likely to involve this scenario:
    You're driving along, and some fine homeless gentleman awaits your car on the side of the highway. When the time is right he steps out and gets wacked by your car. He then attempts to get money from you, or sue you. Should your car swerve into a pole killing your two children in the back to avoid this idiot? No.. It should mow apply the brakes then mow him down if there isn't an alternative.

    This isn't a decision to sacrifice a group of infants stacked by the side of the road, it's a decision to prioritize the driver's family over some idiot that decides they should be sitting on a highway for no apparent reason.

    • (Score: 2) by t-3 on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:20AM

      by t-3 (4907) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @08:20AM (#413344) Journal

      I think that's a good point, but this already happens, and nitpicking but he would have to be kind of stupid if he jumps out on the highway. I would rather go for one of those nice 25mph school zone places and sue the the shit of someone instead of getting smeared on the highway.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:31AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:31AM (#413367)

        You can find Youtube videos of people committing suicide in this way.

        I have, personally, also experienced pedestrians walking right down the middle of a major arterial road (that had sidewalks, no less). Wearing dark clothing in the middle of the night, naturally.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by moondrake on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:27AM

    by moondrake (2658) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:27AM (#413364)

    I hope the article is not completely correct. If it is implemented, it is stupid, and Mercedes will be in trouble in many countries.

    As mentioned above, in Germany for example, you are not allowed to weigh lives against each other in advance of the situation. In several other EU countries, the car driver is always accountable for damages of an accident with a pedestrian or cyclist, even without causing the accident.

    But there is another problem here. The software is bound to make mistakes. As it cannot account for every situation. Every single case in which somebody gets killed that could have been avoided, especially when it is seen as unjust (3 children killed by an older guy who stole the car after a robbery, and later analysis showed that the accident could have been avoided by crashing the car in a haystack that was identified by the software as concrete) is going to cost mercedes a lot of money and a bad rep. Its seems far worse than an exploding phone to me....

    I think with the current state of things, the correct thing would be to give control to the driver (which would be silly in the last second, so it has to be preconfigured shifting all accountability to the driver) or make no decision in software at all. In the latter case, the choice made by the car is completely random (or weighted depending on likelihoods of fatalities).

    I would not wan to buy such a car but rather prefer to make this kind of choice on my own, and when it is time....

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:34AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:34AM (#413371)

    Cars are equipped with many safety features for the persons in the car (with Mercedes being on the higher price range I expect them standard equipped with most of these). The thing is that there should not be a question of the driver or pedestrians being killed to preventing an accident, but if to kill pedestrians or not in case an accident would not cause harm to the driver (due to the safety measures inside the car).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @11:41AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @11:41AM (#413396)

      The thing is that there should not be a question of the driver or pedestrians being killed to preventing an accident

      OK, so the car is driving along an alley at a speed of 100 km/h (at a road where this is allowed and reasonable). From behind a tree, a pedestrian suddenly enters the street. Breaking will not be sufficient to prevent hitting him. There are cars approaching on the other side of the road. The only available choices are: Steer into a tree (likely killing the driver, as at this speed the safety features don't help much), steer into the opposite traffic (obviously the worst option), or don't steer at all (likely killing the pedestrian).

      That's a situation where the car can avoid the pedestrian, at the expense of the driver: Steer into a tree.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by fraxinus-tree on Wednesday October 12 2016, @10:10AM

    by fraxinus-tree (5590) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @10:10AM (#413380)

    At least here, in Bulgaria, human-driven Mercedes cars do just the same. They even sometimes prioritize not only the life of the people inside, but also avoiding small to moderate car body repair over hitting a pedestrian. And given choice of hitting cars that differ in market value, they always hit the cheaper one, bringing inherently more risk to the people there.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by theluggage on Wednesday October 12 2016, @10:50AM

    by theluggage (1797) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @10:50AM (#413386)

    The "trolley problem" is flawed because it assumes that you have oracular knowledge of the consequences of each possible action and only have to contemplate the ethical angle. It has been simplified into meaninglessness. In reality, the problem is not counting the cost of each hypothetical outcome, it is the doubt over the actual outcome of each choice, not to mention the lack of time for philosophical debate. The dangerous people are the ones who are utterly convinced that they are doing the right thing.

    To swerve around them would drive the car into a speeding truck on one side or over a cliff on the other, bringing certain death to anybody inside.

    ...also killing the driver of the truck which jacknifes and wipe out the kids anyway while the wreckage lands on the rail track at the bottom of the cliff and causes a train crash, killing the surgeon who was on the way to save the life of the biologist who was about to cure cancer. Oh, and the one kid who survives grows up to be a genocidal tyrant. OK, that's kind of a worst-case scenario, but the first couple of possibility are quite feasible and hard to predict.

    The real priority of the self-driving car should be to maintain control of the vehicle and stop safely because few situations are made safer by a ton of randomly tumbling steel shedding lithium-ion grenades. Leave the three-laws stuff to science fiction and the "theology for agnostics" to philosophers.

    Meanwhile, the self-driving car is unlikely to be traveling too fast for the conditions and won't be checking its Facebook page when the kids jump out in front, so its far more likely to simply stop in time. A big issue with self-driving cars is going to be getting their owners to put up with their safe, if not over-cautious, driving style.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @01:43PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @01:43PM (#413426)

      The framing of the problem also ignores the real possibility of the car misidentifying something in the road as a pedestrian. If the conditions as such that there isn't enough time to avoid the accident, then there may not be enough time to properly identify what is in the road.

      Should self-driving cars cause kill the occupants when it encounters a false positive? What threshold is acceptable (i.e. 1% chance of killing the occupants to avoid what turns out to be a dog) and who is responsible?

      • (Score: 2) by theluggage on Thursday October 13 2016, @12:28PM

        by theluggage (1797) on Thursday October 13 2016, @12:28PM (#413856)

        and who is responsible?

        ...the maker of the car, unless the "driver" was interfering in some way. If its a hands-off self-driving car (as opposed to today's "cruise control plus" then that's the only way it could work. Thats not to say that you, the owner, aren't indirectly paying some sort of insurance premium either as part of the purchase price or via a lease/licensing fee, but the policyholder - the risk - the one who's track record affects the premiums - has to be the manufacturer. Any other solution shouldn't be touched with a bargepole: you'd be mad to take responsibility over something you couldn't control.

        NB: I suspect we'll also see the end of car "ownership" - at the very least they will be leased. Its already getting to be the case that the only financially sensible way of getting an EV, let alone an autonomous one, is by leasing, even if you have the cash (I don't like that but suspect it will be the case...)

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @03:02PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @03:02PM (#413470)

    Nothing nefarious. It is simple:

    A MACHINE HAS NO MORALITY.

    Therefore it should NEVER be making decisions without human control. As in: Here's your reason to NOT allow automatic driving, safety improvements BE DAMNED. At least until you can program moral consciousness into a machine that can say, "Yes, I'll die so that the child may live."

  • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:16PM

    by krishnoid (1156) on Wednesday October 12 2016, @06:16PM (#413571)

    Rather than tying itself into moral and ethical knots in a crisis, Mercedes-Benz simply intends to program its self-driving cars to save the people inside the car. Every time.

    I'm surprised this is coming up -- Google solved this a long time ago in their interface.

    Settings->Advanced->Unavoidable Collision Behavior:

    • [ ] Keep occupants alive
    • [ ] Minimize humans killed
    • [ ] Kill all humans
    • [X] Select randomly
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:47PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12 2016, @09:47PM (#413660)

    Cars these days are designed both for the safety of those inside and those the car might possibly hit.

    Everybody is talking about how the car is going to "mow down" people. It just doesn't happen anymore. More pedestrians these days survive (sometimes only with minor bruises) being hit by cars than ever before.

    So it is quite logical to try as much to save the stupid pedestrian (who should have looked both ways before crossing the street) instead of always saving him from getting hit. And if not possible to save him (using the laws of physics), then hit them, NOT "mow them down" as people like to put it. They will probably only get some minor bruises considering how well designed Mercedes cars are.

  • (Score: 2) by gidds on Thursday October 13 2016, @02:03PM

    by gidds (589) on Thursday October 13 2016, @02:03PM (#413897)

    Here's one way to look at it:

    If you allow manufacturers to prioritise occupant safety, then of course they will because everyone will buy cars which do.  So they have every incentive to worry about the occupants' safety, and none to worry about anyone else.

    Whereas if you force manufacturers to prioritise others, then they have every incentive to make their car as safe as possible for everyone ­— occupants and others — so that people will still buy their cars.  And everyone benefits!

    --
    [sig redacted]