Program Your Car

This task force gives students the responsibility of trying to program a self-driving car while considering obstacles such as the Trolley Problem.

Task Force: Program Your Car

Congratulations!

You have been selected to participate in a project for the future of programmed cars. Your goal is to try to come up with a plan that has an “ideal” design of a car that will be entirely self-sufficient.

Why Are We Doing This?

As technology continues to advance, so does our reliance on it as humans. In recent years, various companies such as Uber and Apple have designed prototypes of self-driving cars. A level four self-driving car is defined as one that controls each and every function; designating the role of humans as mere passengers. While this sounds incredibly convenient, it also brings with it ethical dilemmas of what to do in scenarios that come down to life or death situations. One of the many problems concerning these cars is regarding the trolley problem (the ethical dilemma of what someone would do if they had the opportunity to pull a level and prevent five people from dying, but killing one person in the process or doing nothing and allowing the five people to die). Here, we ask you to consider the trolley problem and other issues that may arise as self-driving cars are programmed.

Steps:

  1. Try to program a car and consider what characteristics/features it will have.
    1. What will your car be able to do?
    2. What kinds of decisions will be left for the driver to make?
    3. How will your car try to tackle the issue of the trolley problem? 
    4. What issues will be inevitable no matter how a car is programmed?
  2. Think through the possible objections about your programmed car that someone could have and how you would answer them. 
    1. Is there anything that is missing in your design? 
    2. Why is it important to include the factors you have chosen in the design of a programmed car?
  3. Share with the group and see if you can convince them that your programming of a car makes the best attempt at solving the trolley problem and other ethical dilemmas.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • You do not have to come up with an exhaustive list of features for your car.
  • You do not have to solve the trolley problem (there is no solution to it), but you should consider how you are going to address the problem.
  • Consider issues other than the trolley problem and when a human should have control during accidents.
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