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Driverless cars and a new kind of “trolley problem”

Autonomous vehicles force us to confront profound philosophical questions 

By Philip Ball  

The trolley problem has never been more relevant. Credit: Zapyon/Wikimedia Commons

The Trolley Problem always struck me as a little dubious. First posed in its modern form in 1967 as a conundrum in ethical philosophy, it generally runs something like this. You see a runaway trolley (of lethal size) rolling down a track towards five prone people, all of whom will die if it hits. But there is a lever that, if pulled, will divert the trolley onto a side track where just a single person lies in…

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