11 August 2016

Off my trolley problem

People interested in self-driving cars keep discussing the “trolley problem” — that is, in the event of an imminent accident, how should the car decide who gets to live, and who dies?

The problem is, ethics is a really tricky area of philosophy. So I have A Modest Proposal: Technology can enable a free market solution instead.

Each passenger in a vehicle or pedestrian with a smartphone can place accident compensation funds in escrow, and be issued a digital certificate stating the amount. In the event of an accident, the vehicles and pedestrians involved can use wireless networking to exchange compensation certificates, and then the driverless cars can act so as to maximize the payout to the families of the deceased.

For example, suppose a car is cruising down the street when the brakes fail. Ahead on a crosswalk is a mother and her adopted orphan son, crossing one way, and Peter Thiel crossing the other way. The car exchanges compensation certificates with everyone’s smartphones. The car then steers into the child, Peter Thiel pays a million bucks from his compensation fund, the mother is rich, and everyone’s a winner. Well, except the child, obviously, but he should have been more bootstrappy.

Now, who wants to patent this and form a startup?

© mathew 2017