a spotter’s guide to the revolution: the crash

is there any topic as ethically loaded as power?

in every application — gender, politics, economics, sexuality — power draws a dotted line in the sand, and every person is forced to decide which side they stand on: with those who have the power, or with those who don’t.

the ethics of power has raced, once again, into the conversation about cars.

the current buzz around the future of the auto industry has been largely focused on electric and autonomous vehicles. i’ve already made the case for why i see this as more of a pivot, than a disruption. and as the conversation continues, it becomes clear that self-driving cars represent just one aspect of the changing vehicular eco-system.

the real disruption is taking place in the development of a different set of technologies: V2V or vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

a recent nytimes article explored this mysterious yet certain intelligent automated future, “what is certain is that those who play the largest roles in solving it will be in a position to dictate — as those who control infrastructure always have been — which people and places they will empower and which they will upend.”

V2V equipped autonomous vehicles are connected to other vehicles on the road, making them able to anticipate potentially life-threatening conditions. so at first glance, the values of V2V stand in saving lives. who can argue with that?

the ethical implications of V2V technology are a bit more complicated, though.

autonomous vehicles demand that we divide the risk of harm amongst all the people on and near the road. whose safety is prioritized? right now, it’s up to you as the driver.

but, according to azim shariff, director of the culture and morality lab at the university of california, irvine most people don’t necessarily think about it that way. shariff says, “leaving that ‘decision’ up to your subconscious becomes its own ethical choice, once ‘the luxury of deliberation’ embodied by the preprogrammed car exists.”

self-interest versus the greater good. where would you draw the line as a crash draws near?