(CNN)You’re riding in a driverless car with a loved one. It’s cruising down a one-way, single-lane road with a barricade to the left and a wall to the right.
Just a few feet ahead, three pedestrians are hurrying across a crosswalk even though it’s flashing a red signal. The driverless vehicle’s wheels are faster than the pedestrians’ feet, and a collision is inevitable.
What should happen next? Should the vehicle know to swerve into a wall and sacrifice its passengers to avoid the pedestrians, or should it protect its passengers at all costs?
A new study, published in the journal Science on Thursday, presented that scenario, and others, to about 2,000 people in a series of six surveys.
Jonathan Handel, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law, said that such regulation is needed now because driverless cars are already being programmed and are on the road.
“This is an insightful study that shows that the ‘not in my backyard’ problem extends to driverless cars. Call it the ‘not in my back seat’ problem,” said Handel, who was not involved in the new study. “People want manufacturers and society to do the right thing but not at their own expense … It’s a difficult problem, but one that can be addressed by regulation.”
A representative from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the administration plans to release updated guidelines on autonomous vehicles and automated safety technology this summer.
In April, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind announced that the administration is committed to continuing a discussion about autonomous vehicle safety as well as other emerging technologies.
“NHTSA is developing operational guidance for the safe deployment of automated vehicles. This guidance will provide manufacturers and other stakeholders with guidelines for how NHTSA expects safe automated vehicles to behave in a variety of conditions,” Rosekind said.
“In this new era, what are the metrics by which we will measure the safety value and roadworthiness of new technologies?” he asked. “This is a question that we are asking all stakeholders. And let’s be honest; it’s not an easy question to answer. But it will be critical to understand as we are developing new ways to assess new technologies, and analyze their life-saving potential.”