Common Good and Personal Good in Self-Driving Cars

People want other people’s self-driving cars to keep pedestrians safe

As self driving cars creep towards reality, surveys are being done to figure out how people think cars should be programmed to deal with moral questions-- for example, should a car be programmed to save 10 pedestrians at the expense of one passenger? Turns out, when asked in the abstract, people feel that the car should be programmed to save the greatest number, but if it is themselves or a loved one behind the wheel, they are more likely to want the car to save the driver, even at the expense of numerous pedestrian casualties, and are less likely to buy a car that is mandated to be programed to save the many over the few.

This common social phenomenon applies to many of the questions we as a community face, including not just traffic safety, but questions of housing density, environmental protection, or speeding.  We are willing to acknowledge that particular concepts or actions provide a common good, but when there is an affect on us directly, we are less likely to support it.

These studies demonstrate a known social phenomenon: people tend to favor global scenarios that will lead to the best societal outcome, but they often don’t want to abide by that decision themselves.
— Roheeni Saxena, Ars Technica