Tetsuya Lijima from Nissan giving a demonstration around the roads of east London of a prototype Nissan Leaf driverless car. (Photo by Philip Toscano/PA Images via Getty Images)

While designers of autonomous vehicles (AVs) continue their quest to make them safer, the realities of complex roadways call for complex ethical decisions about who lives or dies. To address the technological version of what’s known as the age-old “trolley problem,” a worldwide study asked questions such as: if one or more pedestrian is suddenly crossing the road, should the AV be programmed to swerve and risk going off the road with its passengers or hit the people head-on?

Most respondents objectively lean toward protecting the greatest number of people, but also show a reluctance to ride in an AV that doesn’t guarantee protection for its passengers as priority number one.

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Screenshot: Kitty Hawk "Cora"

If you’ve ever watched the 1960s futuristic cartoon The Jetsons, you’ve seen Google co-founder Larry Page’s basic vision for flying taxis. It takes off and lands like a helicopter and flies horizontally with a passenger on board—except George Jetson still had to steer. After several years of quiet development, Page has unveiled the self-driving, electric prototype in New Zealand and plans to bring service-for-hire to the public.

Behind the Curtain of the Secret Flying Taxi

Page, now CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is operating this project by personally financing a company called Kitty Hawk. The company is working to improve the prototype of autonomous flying vehicles, known as Cora, so people could rent similar vehicles for transport.

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Screenshot via YouTube.

As cars with more autonomous capability make their way to the road, Nissan is seeking to capture the attention of those people who aren’t ready to let go of their steering wheels. Its Brain-to-Vehicle model—which uses an electroencephalography (EEG) cap to connect driver to car—claims to anticipate and accelerate the driver’s reactions, creating an overall improved driving experience. The project also seeks to use information from the cap in self-driving mode, adjusting the environment and ride to better suit the driver’s comfort level.

How Does B2V Work?

While Nissan’s cap gathers raw data from the driver’s brain, the car’s artificial intelligence interprets it. Thus, the name Brain-to-Vehicle or B2V technology.

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