NeXus, the magazine of the student projects connectUS, Focus India, Insight China and exploreASEAN (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW), interviewed the machine ethicist and business information systems engineer Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel. The first question Stephen Randes asked was: „Cars are an integral part of US culture and identity. How will self-driving cars be accepted in that market?“ The answer: „Some Americans will surely miss the fun of driving. However, there is a new kind of driving enjoyment. As everyone knows who has ever tried out the autopilot of the Tesla model S. Whether the social approval will be given remains to be seen. There are certainly reasons to reject autonomous cars in particular areas.“ The next question: „What about safety concerns? What happens if an accident cannot be avoided?“ The scientist’s answer: „This is a subject that we explore in machine ethics: whom shall the autonomous car kill if it cannot brake in time? You can teach it rules or feed it with cases, and make it a complex moral machine that decides on people’s life and death. I, personally, argue in favor of simple moral machines. I am not against robot cars – I advise not to let them drive at any place and at any time. It is a question of avoiding accidents if possible.“ The last question related again to the market and the development of mobility: „Market analysts expect 10 million self-driving cars on the roads by 2020. How do you think this will change mobility (individual transport, public transport, workplace commutes)?“ Oliver Bendel declared: „I see opportunities for public transport. In the Valais, PostAuto is testing autonomous shuttles. Their speed is very low, so that there can be hardly any damage. Private autonomous cars are well suited for the traffic between cities. New forms of car sharing are possible as well. Maybe one day self-driving cars might even be sent to fetch a pizza, which, however, implies that there is a robot in the robot – except the pizza is simply thrown into the car.“ A part of the interview was published in the April issue, including further information on the person and the motivation.
Fig.: This robot could take the pizza