Vehicle Morality – The VR endeavour

The first study on the vehiclemorality site came to a close at the beginning of September. This marked a very important milestone for the Masters degree and has paved the way to future areas of research, including the subject of this post:

Virtual Reality; An area that is hot with research and an area that this master’s degree is delving into.

What for?

To compare the results of the previous study, with a new factor, immersion.

Is there a significant difference in decision making when adding immersion as a factor into the mix?

The first study showed little area of significance between the two core factor sets being evaluated:

  • Time Pressure
  • Actor Influence

The hypothesis from the previous study, is thus nullified, however there are arguments as to why this was the case.

The way the study was presented only showed actors by a line of text, thus not clearly indicating their position within the environment on the images, not to mention that a two-dimensional image would no doubt have an abstract impact on a participant, thus making decisions questionable as to whether participants would choose the decisions they did, when actually in that situation.

From the study, two areas of interest surfaced which showed potential for further exploration.

Participants showed a difference between intervening compared to continuing down the road, as well as changing their decision based on time pressure, for self-preservation compared to self-sacrifice.

This, as well as immersion, are the core areas for the second study.

Participants will be asked to complete two VR scenarios and then complete an interview to Qualitatively understand the participants decisions. Participants will be randomly assigned between two groups, time and non-time pressure. Actor evaluation will no longer continue, only for the reason the VR study has to be carefully designed, and timed to reduce the risk of motion sickness, not to mention the ability to time manage the quantity of participants would be far easier.

Via the immersive factor and the focus on the areas previously mentioned, could it be possible to highlight that immersion does have a substantial factor on automated ethical decisions? Meaning an important alternative consideration for Vehicle Manufacturers when developing the next generation of Autonomous Vehicle.

The VR environment is being developed as this post goes out, being carefully designed and implemented to be as best a representation of the study design as possible. The expected study date is around March, to run through till May but timing is flexible based on when ethics is complete and the environment is ready to go.