Human decisions in moral dilemmas are largely described by Utilitarianism: virtual car driving study provides guidelines for ADVs

Maximilian Alexander Wächter, Anja Faulhaber, Felix Blind, Silja Timm, Anke Dittmer, Leon René Sütfeld, Achim Stephan, Gordon Pipa, Peter König

Ethical thought experiments such as the trolley dilemma have been investigated extensively in the past, showing that humans act in a utilitarian way, trying to cause as little overall damage as possible. These trolley dilemmas have gained renewed attention over the past years; especially due to the necessity of implementing moral decisions in autonomous driving vehicles. We conducted a set of experiments in which participants experienced modified trolley dilemmas as the driver in a virtual reality environment. Participants had to make decisionsbetween two discrete options: driving on one of two lanes where different obstacles came into view. Obstacles included a variety of human-like avatars of different ages and group sizes. Furthermore, we tested the influence of a sidewalk as a potential safe harbor and a condition implicating a self-sacrifice. Results showed that subjects, in general, decided in a utilitarian manner, sparing the highest number of avatars possible with a limited influence of the other variables. Our findings support that human behavior is in line with the utilitarian approach to moral decision making. This may serve as a guideline for the implementation of moral decisions in ADVs.

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