Should Driverless Cars Kill Their Passengers?

Posted by: Stephen Miller - Oakwood Friends School, Marist College
Designed for: College/University, High School, Middle School
Topics Covered: Trolley Problem, Utilitarianism, Greater Good, Technology
Estimated Time Necessary: 60 Minutes as follow-up to reading
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Learning Objectives

  • Programming and Moral Choice - This lesson explores a contemporary problem in Technology and Ethics. How should we program driverless cars? In order to answer this, classical ideas in Ethics are explored, especially utilitarianism.

Tool Text

The new technology of driverless cards has opened up a real-world corollary to the 65 year old tradition of Trolley Problems.  The basic question here involved how the cars should be programmed: to protect their passengers or others out on the road?

Read these the two  articles and watch the video dealing with issues arising from the programming of driverless cars. and


Should Driverless Cars Kill Their Passengers?

Have Your Class Watch This Video

Possible Discussion Questions
  1. What are the core moral dilemmas involved in the programming of driverless cars?
  2. Who is involved here?
  3. Explain the title of the first article.
  4. Is there a moral problem with the inconsistency found in the second article? What would happen if everyone refuses to drive a "utilitarian" car?
  5. How should these cars be programmed? Why?

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