Are we ready for the 'moral' car?

As development of autonomous vehicles progresses, discussion is needed over operating parameters

A "jaywalker" passing in front of a self-driving shuttle bus at an autonomous vehicle test centre in Singapore. It bothers the writer that humans are allowing programmed computers to operate cars - dangerous machines in themselves - with insufficient
A "jaywalker" passing in front of a self-driving shuttle bus at an autonomous vehicle test centre in Singapore. It bothers the writer that humans are allowing programmed computers to operate cars - dangerous machines in themselves - with insufficient discussion over what the programme should and should not include.ST FILE PHOTO

According to one definition, a moral agent is "a being who is capable of acting with reference to right and wrong".

As the development of autonomous vehicles (AVs) lurches ahead, the automotive industry will soon be churning out millions of cars capable of doing away with the human driver (perhaps even the steering wheel) and achieving a safety record that surpasses any human's.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 11, 2018, with the headline 'Are we ready for the 'moral' car?'. Subscribe