Watch out pedestrians! Mercedes autonomous cars put occupants first
When it comes to priorities in terms of safety, Mercedes future autonomous vehicles will know what theirs are. Protect the occupants at all costs in a crash situation, even if that should mean putting the passengers lives above those of any pedestrians involved.
This difficult moral question is one that developers of all autonomous cars will eventually be forced to answer, and already debates have started amongst lawmakers, ethicists, and lawyers. For Mercedes’s Manager of Driver Assistance Systems, Active Safety and Ratings, the answer is simple.
Christophe von Hugo said in an interview at the recent Paris Motor Show: “If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car,
“If all you know for sure is that one thing, one death, can be prevented then that’s your first priority.
“You could sacrifice the car, but then the people you’ve saved, you don’t know what happens to them after that in situations that are often very complex, so you save the ones you know you can save,” he said.
This sort of reassurance might be viewed as positive by potential autonomous car buyers, but von Hugo’s primary goal is to attempt to keep Mercedes’s cars out of these situations in the first place.
“We believe this ethical question won’t be as relevant as people believe today. It will be occur much less often.
“There are situations that today’s driver can’t handle that, from physical stand point, we can’t prevent today and that with automated vehicles can’t prevent either. (But) it will be far better than the average driver.
“This moral question of who to save: 99 percent of our engineering work is to prevent these situations from happening at all.
“We are working so our cars don’t drive into situations where that could happen and drive away from potential situations where those decisions have to be made at all.
“It’s not about miles. It’s about situations and there are an infinite number of them.”