How virtue signalling makes us better: moral preferences with respect to autonomous vehicle type choices

AI and Society 38 (2):937-946 (2023)
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Abstract

One of the moral questions concerning autonomous vehicles (henceforth AVs) is the choice between types that differ in their built-in algorithms for dealing with rare situations of unavoidable lethal collision. It does not appear to be possible to avoid questions about how these algorithms should be designed. We present the results of our study of moral preferences (N = 2769) with respect to three types of AVs: (1) selfish, which protects the lives of passenger(s) over any number of bystanders; (2) altruistic, which minimizes the number of casualties, even if this leads to death of passenger(s); and (3) conservative, which abstains from interfering in such situations. We differentiate between scenarios in which participants are to make their decisions privately or publicly, and for themselves or for their offspring. We aim to answer two research questions: (1) whether the public visibility of the choice of an AV type choice make this choice more altruistic and (2) which type of situation makes it more difficult to choose altruistically: when choosing for society as a whole, when choosing only for oneself, or when choosing only for one’s offspring. Our results show that respondents exhibit a preference for an altruistic strategy for AVs and that it is reinforced when signaled to others. The altruistic preference is strongest when applies to everybody else, weaker when it reflects a solely personal choice, and weakest when choosing for one’s own child. We conclude that a public choice is considerably more likely to pressure consumers into accepting a more socially beneficial solution.

Author Profiles

Michaela Jirout Košová
Charles University, Prague
Daniel D. Novotný
University Of South Bohemia
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