Network neutrality for self-driving cars


I am a little bit annoyed by these morality studies related to self-driving cars because they tend to give kind of far-fetched situations as examples.
How often one encounters situation where one lane lane is full of pensioners, other lane has a single adorable infant and the only way evade is a deep cliff beside the road? Especially when the robot cars (should) maintain safe distances and speeds?

Given the obvious current examples, I have absolutely no doubt that Comcast, or Ford or anyone else would lobby to create an heirarchy of drivers and priorities.


Individually not very often. In the context of millions of cars running at all times in all conditions around the world, statistically it probably happens every day, and perhaps every hour. People designing software for automated cars need to account for outliers and extreme cases because they happen all the time somewhere, even if they are vanishingly rare.


For me it’s just another example of an old formula:

“I am a (rich/powerful/connected) (person/group) that
(has/seeks) an advantage over others. I will (spend/collude/fight) to
(get/keep) want I want.”

Of course there will be an advantage for those able and
willing to push their weight around. The only fun to be had for the non- 1% is
to speculate about the new and inventive ways we’ll get screwed. I think we are
beyond a political solution (as the problem is global) but I’d be overjoyed if
an American DBAD (Don’t be a dick) party were created. Someone tell Will
Wheaton that his future is calling…


Can I tweak my on-board computer’s Preferences? Aw, c’mon, pleeease? Oh, jeez, I’ll just do it anyway.

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If it happened every day and every hour wouldn’t we read about it in the news? Car dives off cliff, killing driver. Car slams into pensioners, saving infant.

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They already do/will be able to do so.

In my part of Florida, they are going to have toll lanes that will allow you to move faster than the others that decide to stick to the free portion of the highway. At least what will stay “free”. Not that I see enough room in the current right of way to create these special lanes, certainly not on the inside berm.

This area used to have a number of toll roads and especially bridges. We pay a .5% sales tax to get rid of it. And now, they are bringing them back. I fully expect that they will have to rescind that tax increase before this will ever be palatable in this area, which will also cause issues because the politicians certainly are counting on keeping that sales tax in place.

Yup, Austin is getting tolled lanes as well. And Russia has long had those blue-light cars—if your car has a blinky blue light on top, it means you’ve paid a government fee to let you break the law.

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In the abstract I love the idea of autonomous cars. I would much rather be reading or surfing the web than looking at your worn out exahaust spewing thick diesel smoke, and if it were implemented on the basis of a ‘common carrier’ model (with strictly controlled exceptions for emergency services … and no, Mr Plod, your run down to the donut shop doesn’t count as an emergency) then sign me up baby. But the more I think about it, and the more tangential examples of similar services we see in the wild, the less likely I think it is that auto-cars will be peered.

So, fark that.

Just another tradgedy of the commons.

On a four-lane highway, 99% of the traffic will be wedged into one lane, and 1% will enjoy the other three. In the case of an unavoidable tragic accident, the computers will favor those in the rich lanes. No question.

On the one hand, letting rich folks buy their way into the fast lane would be super shitty.

On the other hand, I would happily sacrifice, say, 10mph of highway average speed to richies if it meant I could lie back and nap or play video games instead of focusing on the road for hours and hours. Good-with-a-caveat is still better than bad.

Do you not read the paper? It’s a big ole world, and every hour over 140 people are killed on the roads.

Networking is not necessary for the dilemma. My car comes around a corner and finds two, for some reason previously undetected pedestrians. Does it run them down or go over the cliff?

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I mean this exact situation.

How often one encounters
situation where one lane lane is full of pensioners, other lane has a
single adorable infant and the only way evade is a deep cliff beside the
road? Especially when the robot cars (should) maintain safe distances
and speeds?

Oh, you’re making the literal pedantic argument, rather than seeing it as figurative example of a class sometimes known as Sophie’s Choice.

In that case; you are pedantically correct - the exact situation where one lane lane is full of pensioners while other lane has a single adorable infant and the only way evade is by driving into a deep cliff beside the road hardly ever happens. Well done!


I don’t know if it happens every day, but a colleague had it happen in front of him. He came around a corner just as a large articulated lorry/semi and tractor plunged off its own side of the road and over the steep bank to the side of him. Traffic stopped and a rescue was mounted. The driver was conscious in the cab when they got to him and survived to be cut out and taken away in an ambulance. Apparently his brakes had failed leaving him with the decision whether to plough into the cars on the other side of the road, or take a dive before they got to him …

[grammar and spelling edits]


We do read about it on the news every day. Local news make most of their bank with human tragedy stories - the foremost (and easiest to cover) being car crashes.

It is just so commonplace and banal that we don’t even notice unless it happens to someone we care about.

Or are you talking about automated cars specifically? In that case, there aren’t enough to make assumptions. And they will almost certainly have a significant net reduction in total crashes and fatalities. I’d love it if a crash on the other side of the country were seen as notable enough to make the news where I live - that would be a huge step forward.


On the plus side, it will mean a lot of jobs in the auto industry for heinously underemployed philosophers specialising in the trolley problem, to work out the moral calculus for this.


I don’t have much that hasn’t already been said to add to the discussion of the ethical questions presented by self-driving cars. I just came over here to say that you really, really should listen to Spider Robinson’s reading of “Human Readable”. It’s a wonderful story, and it’s my favorite audio performance of a story ever. Spider has a really lovely way of speaking (I recommend his podcast, as well, though it comes out rarely), and it suits the story perfectly.