News / Vancouver

Vancouver-created VR game looks at ethics behind self-driving cars

Cardboard Crash offers players a look into some of the ethical decisions an autonomous car may have to make one day.

Cardboard Crash poses drivers with decisions a self-driving vehicle may have to make in an imminent collision.

NFB Digital Studio via Vimeo

Cardboard Crash poses drivers with decisions a self-driving vehicle may have to make in an imminent collision.

Self-driving cars are moving further away from Jetsons-like fantasies and towards every day reality in Canada.

Just this week, Ontario announced it would be approving autonomous vehicles for the province's roads in a pilot project — the first of its kind in Canada.

But while cities have been working to understand what changes would need to be made infrastructure-wise to accommodate these vehicles, not much has been studied around the cars' ethical implications.

Cardboard Crash, a virtual reality game by Vancouver artist Vincent McCurley, hopes to raise some of the possible questions around ethics.

Available for free from the National Film Board of Canada, Cardboard Crash puts the player behind the wheel of a car driven by a computer. While travelling on the road, players need to make decisions a self-driving car would have to make in the case of an imminent crash.

In the trailer for the game, it poses three options: Veer left and hit the family, drive straight into an oncoming tanker or turn right and fly off the cliff?

"Every time we get behind the wheel, we make decisions with life and death implications," reads the description on the game's site. "Cardboard Crash is a virtual reality (VR) experience that explores whether we’re ready to hand over such ethically fraught decisions to artificial intelligence (AI)."

While the game started as a public service announcement about distracted driving, McCurley hopes it will help people understand some of the possible implications of allowing self-driving cars.

As the site says: "There is plenty of data, but no easy answer."

Cardboard Crash is available for both Android and iOS. It will be made available for VR platforms soon.

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