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A Matter of Life or Death

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The Moral Machine asks users how a self-driving car should act in the event of a fatal accident.

Researchers have created an online survey platform called the Moral Machine to help promote the discussion of ethics related to autonomous vehicles. The site already has drawn more than 2.5 million participants from over 160 countries.

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More than 2.5 million people from more than 160 countries have participated in an online survey called the Moral Machine since its launch in May. University of California, Irvine (UCI) professor Azim Shariff and colleagues created the online survey platform to help promote the discussion surrounding the ethics of algorithms used in autonomous vehicles.

The Moral Machine gives people an opportunity to share their opinions about which algorithmic decisions are most ethical for a self-driving vehicle to make.

Shariff notes although self-driving vehicles are expected to reduce the frequency of accidents, they will still occur. The survey presents 13 scenarios in which there will be at least one, if not multiple, fatalities, involving passengers and pedestrians characterized by sex, age, fitness level, and social status. The survey asks participants what they think a self-driving vehicle should do in each case.

"At the end, participants have the option to help us better understand their judgments by choosing to answer additional questions about their personal trust of machines and willingness to buy a self-driving car," Shariff says.

"The international reach of the Moral Machine allows us to vastly increase the breadth of this research and study a much wider array of societies that will be affected in a future dominated by self-driving cars."

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