How Waymo Is Tackling “The Trolley Problem”: An Unstoppable Team Of Harvard Lawyers

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA — The Trolley Problem is a classic moral dilemma where an actor controls a switching lever, and an unstoppable train is hurdling down the tracks. The train is set to hit a group of children, and the actor has the option to pull the lever to divert the train to another track that would save the children but kill a single man that would otherwise have been unharmed. The question is: Which is moral? Is it moral for the actor pull the lever, and effectively cause the murder of the man and save the group of children for the “greater good”? Or is it moral to not pull the lever and let the train kill the children, as no actor should have the agency to control the destiny of others if it means willingly killing someone?

Autonomous vehicles have the same problem. Does an autonomous control algorithm steer the car out of the way of one person to hit another if a collision is inevitable? This is a fascinating, relevant, and highly litigious problem for the AV industry. So how is Waymo, Google’s AV brainchild and front-runner in the emerging vertical tackling this problem? The answer: A team of seasoned, ruthless, morally ambivalent, highly pedigreed, and well-connected alumnus from Harvard Law School.

Waymo’s general counsel had this to say on the issue: “We’ve had many discussions internally about how our development team should approach this issue. After much consideration, we concluded that regardless of our approach a strong team of Harvard lawyers that can protect us against any potential legal liabilities was the clear answer.”

The GC continued: “At first we thought: ‘Should we hire a bunch of philosophy doctorates to pontificate the issue and come to a robust solution that is equitable to all parties and then computerize it in our systems?’, but once our CFO projected the operating expenses for that scenario and compared it to the salary expense for a team of Ivy League educated lawyers armed with the experience and financial incentive to protect our corporation from anyone who may have the audacity to sue us as a result of being injured by an autonomous vehicle- well let’s just say we decided to go with the lawyers. Besides, philosophy is for losers who burn incense and smoke DMT in their plant-infested studio apartments.”

The GC said that Waymo remains committed to delivering affordable transport to the people who need it most to connect us with places and things we care about, to make communities happy and safe, and that they will go to court if they have to.

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