Should Driverless Cars Kill Their Passengers?

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Area: Science
Grade Level: High School & Beyond, Middle School
Topics: Agency, ethics, Free Will/Choice, Greater Good, rights/responsibilities, Technology, trolley problem, utilitarianism
Estimated Time Necessary: 60 Minutes as follow-up to reading

Lesson Plan

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.

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



Discussion Questions

  • What are the core moral dilemmas involved in the programming of driverless cars?
  • Who is involved here?
  • Explain the title of the first article.
  • Is there a moral problem with the inconsistency found in the second article? What would happen if everyone refuses to drive a "utilitarian" car?
  • How should these cars be programmed? Why?
This lesson plan was contributed by: Stephen Miller, Oakwood Friends School, Marist College.