- Larry Downing/Reuters
President Barack Obama has weighed in on one of the biggest problems self-driving car developers must address.
In an interview with Wired editor Scott Dadich, Obama highlighted how as self-driving cars advance, automakers will need to focus their attention toward figuring out the kind of values to “embed in the cars.”
“There are gonna be a bunch of choices that you have to make, the classic problem being: If the car is driving, you can swerve to avoid hitting a pedestrian, but then you might hit a wall and kill yourself,” Obama said. “It’s a moral decision, and who’s setting up those rules?”
The question is becoming more pertinent as an increasing number of companies ramp up their driverless car efforts. Ford said its fleet of self-driving cars will be ready by 2021, and Tesla is shooting for a more ambitious date of 2018. Google’s fleet of self-driving cars have driven a collective 2 million miles, and Uber recently launched its Pittsburgh pilot for its self-driving cars.
But Obama isn’t the only one mulling over how driverless cars should respond in life-and-death situations.
MIT has created a website asking people to decide how a self-driving car should respond in certain situations where the driver and pedestrians are at risk.
Mercedes-Benz actually recently came out with an answer to that question, deciding that future autonomous vehicles will always put the driver first, according to Car and Driver.
Although Obama notes there are problems that still need to be worked out, he acknowledges the beneficial potential of self-driving cars.
“We have machines that can make a bunch of quick decisions that could drastically reduce traffic fatalities, drastically improve the efficiency of our transportation grid, and help solve things like carbon emissions that are causing the warming of the planet,” he said.