Magazine article USA TODAY

In Emergencies, Should You Trust a Robot?

Magazine article USA TODAY

In Emergencies, Should You Trust a Robot?

Article excerpt

In emergencies, people may trust robots too much for their own safety, suggests a study at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. In a mock building fire, test subjects followed instructions from an "Emergency Guide Robot" even after the machine had proven itself unreliable--and after some participants were told that the robot had broken down.

"People seem to believe that these robotic systems know more about the world than they really do, and that they would never make mistakes or have any kind of fault," says Alan Wagner, senior research engineer. "In our studies, test subjects followed the robot's directions even to the point where it might have put them in danger had this been a real emergency."

The researchers surmise that, in the scenario they studied, the robot may have become an "authority figure" that the test subjects were more likely to trust in the time pressure of an emergency. In simulation-based research done without a realistic emergency scenario, test subjects did not trust a robot that previously had made mistakes. …

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