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Driverless cars pose some questions

What should happen if three pedestrians dash in front of an autonomous car and the vehicle has no place to swerve except into a brick wall? That question and other serious "social dilemma" questions were posed to consumers in a survey designed to gauge opinions about driverless vehicles before they hit the market in Texas and across the U.S.

For the study, which was published in the journal Science on June 23, researchers asked 1,928 people what should happen in various crash scenarios involving autonomous cars. The majority of respondents, 76 percent, said that driverless vehicles should be programmed to be "utilitarian," meaning it may sacrifice one car passenger to save 10 pedestrians. However, 81 percent of respondents also said they would be unwilling to purchase a vehicle programmed to sacrifice a family member to save many strangers, instead preferring a car that would protect its occupants at all times.

A co-author of the study noted that Americans may recognize the moral correctness of utilitarian vehicles, but consumers are naturally drawn to self-protective ones. The opposing viewpoints are just one of many difficult problems that must be addressed by regulators before driverless cars are put on the market. A representative of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the agency plans to release new guidelines on driverless cars and automated safety technology this summer.

Thousands of people are injured in auto-pedestrian accidents each year. With the help of an attorney, individuals who have been struck by a car could file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party seeking compensation for damages. A successful complaint could bring a settlement that covers a victim's medical expenses, loss of income and other accident-related damages.

Source: CNN, "Driverless cars create a safety 'dilemma': passengers vs. pedestrians," Jacqueline Howard, June 23, 2016

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