Articles  |    |  May 1, 2016

Why Ethics Matters for Autonomous Cars

Book chapter by Patrick Lin.
From the book Autonomous Driving: Technical, Legal and Social Aspects.
Published by Springer.

If motor vehicles are to be truly autonomous and able to operate responsibly on our roads, they will need to replicate – or do better than – the human decision-making process. But some decisions are more than just a mechanical application of traffic laws and plotting a safe path. They seem to require a sense of ethics, and this is a notoriously difficult capability to reduce into algorithms for a computer to follow.

Table of Contents

  • Why ethics matters
    • Beyond crash-avoidance
    • Crash-optimization means targeting
    • Beyond harm
  • Scenarios that implicate ethics
    • The deer
    • Self-sacrifice
    • Ducking harm
    • Trolley problems
  • Next steps
    • Broader ethical issues
    • Conclusions
  • References

About the Author

Patrick Lin, Ph.D., is a philosophy professor and Director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University. He is also affiliated with Stanford Law School, University of Notre Dame, and World Economic Forum; and previously with Stanford’s School of Engineering, the U.S. Naval Academy, and Dartmouth College. On the ethics of emerging technologies, he has provided counsel to the U.S. Department of Defense, the United Nations, Google, Apple, and many other government and industry organizations. He is the author of Robot Ethics 2.0.