By Karen Kaplan
Self-driving cars have a lot of learning to do before they can replace the roughly 250 million vehicles on U.S. roads today. They need to know how to navigate when their pre-programmed maps are out of date. They need to know how to visualize the lane dividers on a street that’s covered with snow.
And, if the situation arises, they’ll need to know whether it’s better to mow down a group of pedestrians or spare their lives by steering off the road, killing all passengers onboard.
This isn’t a purely hypothetical question. Once self-driving cars are logging serious miles, they’re sure to find themselves in situations where an accident is unavoidable. At that point, they’ll have to know how to pick the lesser of two evils.
The answer could determine whether self-driving cars become a novelty item for the adventurous few or gain widespread acceptance among the general public.
In other words, the stakes are huge.
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