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The Trolley Problem and the Type IV Safety Device

[+] Author Affiliations
Steven R. Schmid

University of Notre Dame; Triodyne, Inc., Notre Dame, IN

James J. Mason

Van Andel Institute, Kalamazoo, MI

Paper No. IMECE2011-65185, pp. 713-718; 6 pages
  • ASME 2011 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 9: Transportation Systems; Safety Engineering, Risk Analysis and Reliability Methods; Applied Stochastic Optimization, Uncertainty and Probability
  • Denver, Colorado, USA, November 11–17, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5495-2
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


The Trolley Problem is a common problem considered by philosophers, because of the many variations that exist and the subtle differences in solutions that can be generated. Recent research has coupled the Trolley Problem with neuroimaging techniques (fMRI), and demonstrates a complex interaction between cognitive and emotional responses depending on the problem variant. This paper poses the Engineer’s variant of the Trolley problem, namely whether or not an engineer should incorporate safety devices in design if the safety devices have a downside with respect to safety. The authors provide a design paradigm that incorporates the Dangerous Safeguard Consensus, the Intrinsic Classification of Safeguard Devices, and the Safeguard Evaluation Protocol. This paradigm is consistent with the admonitions in the safety literature, industry standards, and governmental codes, the incommensurability of human lives and a utilitarian world view.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME
Topics: Safety



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