Ethics of Self-driving Cars: A Naturalistic Approach

Minds and Machines 32 (4):717-734 (2022)
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The potential development of self-driving cars (also known as autonomous vehicles or AVs – particularly Level 5 AVs) has called the attention of different interested parties. Yet, there are still only a few relevant international regulations on them, no emergency patterns accepted by communities and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and no publicly accepted solutions to some of their pending ethical problems. Thus, this paper aims to provide some possible answers to these moral and practical dilemmas. In particular, we focus on what AVs should do in no-win scenarios and on who should be held responsible for these types of decisions. A naturalistic perspective on ethics informs our proposal, which, we argue, could represent a pragmatic and realistic solution to the regulation of AVs. We discuss the proposals already set out in the current literature regarding both policy-making strategies and theoretical accounts. In fact, we consider and reject descriptive approaches to the problem as well as the option of using either a strict deontological view or a solely utilitarian one to set AVs’ ethical choices. Instead, to provide concrete answers to AVs’ ethical problems, we examine three hierarchical levels of decision-making processes: country-wide regulations, OEM policies, and buyers’ moral attitudes. By appropriately distributing ethical decisions and considering their practical implications, we maintain that our proposal based on ethical naturalism recognizes the importance of all stakeholders and allows the most able of them to take actions (the OEMs and buyers) to reflect on the moral leeway and weight of their options.



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Author Profiles

Daniele Chiffi
Politecnico di Milano
Selene Arfini
Universita' degli Studi di Pavia

Citations of this work

How to program autonomous vehicle (AV) crash algorithms: an Islamic ethical perspective.Ezieddin Elmahjub & Junaid Qadir - 2023 - Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society 21 (4):452-467.

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