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 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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Uber

To the disappointment of “Back to the Future” fans everywhere, 2015 came and went with nary a flying car zooming across the sky. But perhaps Doc Brown and Marty McFly will only need to travel a handful of years later, into the future that is, if they want to see the first real flying cars.

Partnering with NASA, Uber unveiled last year a new venture called Uber Elevate, which will introduce a pay-as-you-go flying ride-sharing service to metropolitan skylines. The program initially planned to launch in Dubai and Dallas Fort Worth, but then last month Uber’s head of product Jeff Holden announced that the company is adding Los Angeles as one of its pilot cities. He hopes for the aerial taxi service to take off as early as 2020 - which is less than three years away.

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[DIGEST: New York Times, Phys.org, NPR]

In May, a man at the wheel of a Tesla was killed in a truck collision while in “autopilot” mode. In June, Google’s self-driving cars cruised around more than 1.7 million miles of roadway. In September, Uber launched a fleet of driverless cars in Pittsburgh. And just a few weeks ago, Barack Obama penned an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the potential for automated cars to make roadways safer.

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