Should a driverless car save occupant or pedestrian?


Though it might not be considered true “artificial intelligence”, Amazon’s website software, which tracks your navigation of its shopping site to dynamically generate suggestions of other related products to look at and then following up with emails to let you know of discounts on the products you were looking at the last time you visited the site, as well as suggestions of other similar products, is pretty impressive. 

The company has been doing this quite some time, and the software’s efficiency and accuracy could be argued to be one of the reasons for Amazon’s spectacular sales success over the years.

Most leading ecommerce websites, such as eBay and others, also have tracking software which can and does do what Amazon does, which is why they are the leaders. But it’s still not artificial intelligence as such.

But then, some people say today’s artificial intelligence is tomorrow’s standard software. Certainly the tracking software described above is now available to any ecommerce website – large or small – as plugins and extensions which are relatively easy to implement.

All of which means the customer experience is, arguably, greatly enhanced. “Arguably” because some people might not want to be tracked so closely, and just enjoy surfing randomly in the hope of finding bargains, or whatever they’re looking for, by coincidence – that’s if “coincidence” is a thing any more.

AI know  

Artificial intelligence, regardless of whether it becomes standard tech tomorrow, is making a big difference to the way customers experience the shopping and buying experience online.

And it’s not just the customer experience AI will be changing as it learns more about human emotions and behaviour, AI will affect virtually every aspect of how digital business is done, including streamlining management.

According to Christophe Coenraets, principal developer evangelist for Salesforce, the more that AI is enabled to interact with data, the more it will affect our business decisions.

He lists a number of ways AI will change the business world, including:

  • AI lets us play with data in new ways
  • AI streamlines the process, whatever that process is
  • AI uses data that was once ignored or thrown away
  • AI presents you with better future options
  • AI adapts when you have too many options
  • AI gets better the more data you feed it
  • AI focuses on the user
  • AI makes systems simpler
  • AI knows you don’t care how the sausage is made
  • AI evolves the user experience

Coenraets is particularly interested in “bots”, because he says they are “a really new disruptive way that people were going to use to access and apply information”.

Moral majority 

Those clever things that Amazon and other ecommerce experts are able to do on their websites to personalise your shopping experience and encourage you to spend more money are just the tip of the iceberg of AI.

The true potential of AI is yet to be realised. But can it really do what even humans often have problems with?

Morality is a philosophical concept which has occupied the minds of many generations of human brains, but now the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is gathering information which will enable it to program an AI system to make moral decisions.

Should a self-driving car choose its occupants over pedestrians? Meaning, if the autonomous car was in a situation where it calculates that there will be an accident in which the occupant or the pedestrian could die, and the software could decide to save one or the other, who should it choose?

The answer is… the occupant.

That’s according to Christophe Von Hugo, manager of driver assistance systems and active safety, Mercedes-Benz.

In comments reported by, Hugo says: “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 death can be prevented, then that’s your first priority.”

Whether you agree or not, you can provide your perspective to the MIT through its website, Moral Machine.

It may not be an easy choice, of course, but these are the fundamental questions that some people say AI is increasingly likely to make decisions about on an ongoing basis, albeit within a framework created by humans.