Last year, a self-driven car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The woman’s family is now suing Arizona and the city of Tempe for negligence. But, in an article published on April 5 in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, cognitive and computer scientists ask at what point people will begin to hold self-driven vehicles or other robots responsible for their own actions—and whether blaming them for wrongdoing will be justified.
“We’re on the verge of a technological and social revolution in which autonomous machines will replace humans in the workplace, on the roads, and in our homes,” says Yochanan Bigman of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “When these robots inevitably do something to harm humans, how will people react? We need to figure this out now, while regulations and laws are still being formed.”