Ethics and Driverless Cars


Technology has the power to change lives in amazing ways. Advances in new technologies changes everything from medicine, to communications, to socialization, to how we live our daily lives. Yet, the impacts of technology on human life are not always examined beforehand. Rather, new technologies are adopted, integrated into businesses and lives, and we let the chips fall where they may.

However, not all companies are willing to let things just happen and then work out solutions later. One complex technology that will impact all lives is the emerging adoption of driverless cars – cars that operate without a human touch. Ford Company has recently hired ethicists to help deal with thorny issues of driverless cars. For example, what happens if an autonomous car is driving down the road, a mother suddenly steps into a crosswalk, the car cannot break, and if it swerves, there are other vulnerable people on the side of the road… what should happen? Where should the car veer? The human mind can have trouble with quick decisions. What is the expectation of technology in making life-and-death decisions?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Kick off the discussion by showing a video of Googles’ driverless car:
  2. Next, have students brainstorm the ways in which this technology will impact businesses and lives.
  3. What industries are impacted by the new technologies?
  4. What will the impact be on human lives?
  5. Discuss the role of ethics in business. Have students brainstorm some of the ethical issues that may arise from driverless cars. List the issues on the board.
  6. Finally, show the video of Ford CEO, Mark Fields, discussing how Ford intends to address the ethical issues:

Source: Manufacturing Business Technology, CNN Money

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