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David Walton | Top Five Ways a Self-Driving Car Might Kill You

June 11, 2019

Self-driving cars are coming! In my latest novel, THREE LAWS LETHAL, New York City is swarming with fleets of them, all competing for your business. The cars are programmed to keep people safe…right? Of course they are. But as the AIs driving the cars find more and more creative ways to beat the competition, they start to develop minds…and goals…of their own.

But what about you? Are you lining up to buy a Tesla? Or staying as far away from them as you can? The question brings us to our Top Five list! A self-driving car might kill you in the following five ways:

  1. By Saving Someone Else.

Let’s say a tree falls in front of a self-driving car and you’re walking nearby. Does the car kill its passengers by hitting the tree, or swerve to save them and kill you instead? With a human at the wheel, there would be no time to consider the question, but an AI has plenty of time to make a choice. In fact, it’s been programmed ahead of time to find the “best” option in any situation. So which one is best? Should it value the life of its owner more than it values your life? What if there are two pedestrians and only one person in the car? What if there are two adults in the car, but the pedestrian is a child? When we give life-and-death choices to a computer, it forces us to think about how we want those decisions to be made.

  1. By Being Hacked.

There are already news stories of cars being hacked and controlled remotely. What if someone could take control of your steering wheel, accelerator, or brakes? What if they could drive you wherever they wanted? To a secret location of their choosing, or just off a cliff? They wouldn’t even have to be nearby. It’s scary enough if a hacker can break into your laptop. It’s ten times scarier if they can hack into your car.

  1. By Delivering a Bomb.

Self-driving cars don’t have to have passengers. They can go where they’re asked to go, taking whatever comes along for a ride. What if a car with a bomb was instructed to drive to your house or school?

  1. By Developing General Intelligence and Joining With Its Friends to Kill All the Humans and Take Over the World.

Okay, this one might be going a bit far…but what if our computers did develop genuine intelligence? How might we treat them? And how would they treat us? The answers say a lot more about humanity than they do about technology, which is why this topic is so valuable to consider.

THREE LAWS LETHAL explores all of these ways a self-driving car might kill you, plus a few more. Before I get off the stage, though, I have one more way that self-driving cars cost you your life:

  1. When People Refuse to Drive Them.

Any conversation about self-driving cars has to acknowledge the fact that people are terrible drivers. We drive drunk, distracted, and exhausted. We text and lose focus and fiddle with the radio. Over a million people die every year due to these mistakes. If driving were a disease, we’d invest billions to find a cure. In fact, we are investing billions, and self-driving cars is the result. THREE LAWS LETHAL considers this aspect of the issue, too: that however afraid we might be of technology that has the power of life and death, we should probably fear ourselves even more.

The future is coming soon, and in some ways is already here. Self-driving cars have the potential to save many lives, but they can also kill us in new and exciting ways. So should we embrace them or fear them? You decide.


Three Laws Lethal

The place, New York City; the time, the very near future. The streets of Gotham are swarming with self-driving cars, which are now a reality, and the competition between two entrepreneurs for this cutthroat futuristic business grows increasingly fierce. But when the escalating technological warfare produces superintelligent AI computers that use data to decide who should live and die, the results are explosive . . . and deadly.

It is left to young Naomi Sumner, inventor of the virtual world in which the AIs train, to recognize that the supercomputers are developing goals of their own—goals for which they are willing to kill. But can she stop these inhuman machines before it is too late? More importantly, will she stop them?

Three Laws Lethal takes the reader on a wild ride in a world that is still imaginary . . . for now . . .

Science Fiction [Pyr, On Sale: June 11, 2019, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781633885608 / ]

About David Walton

David Walton

David Walton is the internationally bestselling author of seven science fiction novels, including THE GENIUS PLAGUE, which won the John W. Campbell Award for Best Novel in 2018.

“This is the way sci-fi ought to be.”

“David Walton is one of our very best writers of science-fiction thrillers”
–Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Quantum Night

David lives near Philadelphia with his wife and eight children.


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