9

A new study has confirmed the obvious: people want to survive:

even though participants approve of autonomous vehicles that might sacrifice passengers to save others, respondents would prefer not to ride in such vehicles

In other words: all vehicles should strive to protect me!

Until recently this was just one of philosophy's theoretical questions, but the latest technological advances are approaching the point where this question becomes one of practice.

The Jewish principle of chayecha kodmim ("your own life has priority") seems to fit well with human nature, but production vehicles may very well be programmed to apply utilitarian principles, therefore:

May one ride in a utilitarian car?

(Obviously, this assumes knowledge of the vehicle's decision algorithm.)

  • The manner in which the car would sacrifice a passenger to save others could be relevant. For example: Would the car detour to drive into a runaway truck that would otherwise have crashed into a crowd of people? This is not in line with halachic principles. Or: Would the car with failing brakes drive off a cliff instead of swerving into a crowd of people? This is consistent with halachic principles. Regardless, I doubt that it would be prohibited to ride in such a car, given how unpredictable and unlikely such a circumstance would be for any given passenger. – Fred Jul 3 '16 at 18:32
  • @The classic scenario is choosing to hit a solid wall (i.e. certain death for passenger) in order to save a child. But follow the links for related scenarios. – Adám Jul 3 '16 at 18:39
  • 1
    Since Jewish ethics appear to be deontological, and a self-driving car eliminates all humans from the role of choosing to kill someone, it might be far better to ride in a self-driving car than to drive. I guess it depends what the algorithm is, to echo @Fred. – Micha Berger Jul 5 '16 at 17:40
  • 1
    This newly-asked duplicate (didn't find the one in a search) raises some additional factors that might be relevant. – Monica Cellio Jan 11 '17 at 18:44
  • 1
    I took a class that talked about how human drivers must respond, per halacha, to imminent fatal accidents, and then extrapolated to self-driving cars (but this is not settled halacha yet, apparently). What I learned for human drivers is that in deciding whom to kill (e.g. the pedestrian in front of you or you if you swerve into a brick wall), what is already set in motion we don't interfere with, even with unbalanced numbers. For what that's worth... – Monica Cellio Oct 16 '17 at 15:52