Autonomous car study wants to know whose lives people value most

It's like "The Hunger Games," but with a very serious and soon-to-be-real outcome.

A website presents users with moral dilemmas on who should theoretically die if a driverless car had to choose in a crash.

Called Moral Machine, millions of people from around the world have already made over 40million judgments on which lives matter more, should a driverless car be unable to stop or swerve.

The scenarios are complex, such as choosing whether to run over children who are crossing the road despite a red light versus older pedestrians who are abiding by the law.

Another variable is whether the passengers in a self-driving car should die over people in the street.

Characteristics given to the people in the scene purposely – perhaps even subconsciously – forces the survey takers to determine whether a male or female is more important to save.

Overall, women are spared their lives slightly more than men from the results so far – as with younger people over the elderly.

It also takes financial backgrounds into account, such as a homeless person’s life versus a business executive – with poorer people losing out.

Based on social value, more people prefer to save a doctor as opposed to a thief.

Weight is another factor – with fitter people considered more important than those with a larger physique.

However, these trends differ depending on which region in the world you’re from, forming three main clusters – the West, the East and those in Latin America as well as former French colonies.

For example, people in the East do not have a clear preference to save young lives over the elderly.

Further to that, countries that are economically developed are more likely to save a wealthy person.

Users can also create their own scenarios, including the importance of animals’ lives with a cat versus dog option.

In theory, all of the data collected could be used to inform car makers on how to set up their driverless systems.

The Moral Machine concept is the brainchild of MIT computer scientist Iyad Rahwan, Jean-Francois Bonnefon from Toulouse School of Economics and psychologist Azim Shariff from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

by Elisha Thakorlal

This article originally appeared in The Sun