More debate needed over driverless cars

HANDS FREE: Former Business Secretary Vince Cable in a driverless car at a research facility in 2014. Picture:  Rui Vieira/PA Wire.
HANDS FREE: Former Business Secretary Vince Cable in a driverless car at a research facility in 2014. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire.

Will autonomous cars be a driverless dream or are they a nightmare in waiting?

The Government wants to see autonomous vehicles on our roads by 2021. Its Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 received royal assent in July.

But what happens when programmed cars are involved in unavoidable accident?

The question was thrown up by an experiment where people were asked to make a decision over who to protect in a number of dual-choice scenarios.

The Conscious Car simulation, launched by Confused.com, asked users to programme an autonomous car.

Moral dilemmas included protecting a child versus an elderly pedestrian and choosing who to prioritise, pedestrians or car occupants.

The results of the experiment revealed that ‘programmers’ in Yorkshire and the Humber were the most selfless.

They were the most likely to protect pedestrians over car occupants, compared to the rest of the UK.

The experiment forms part of a new expert report entitled ‘Autonomous Vehicles: A driverless dream or a nightmare in waiting?’.

The report provides clarity on a range of confusing questions about driverless vehicles, for example, whether the UK Government’s ambition to have autonomous vehicles on our roads by 2021 is unrealistic.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, said: “Our report makes it clear society needs to have some serious debates before driverless technology is introduced to our roads.

“The decisions driverless vehicles make will ultimately be decided by humans at the programming stage, so it’s important to start having conversations about how we want this technology to think and operate.”

People can try the Conscious Car simulation online by logging on to www.confused.com/car-insurance/autonomous-cars-simulation.