Moral AI in the News: Automated Vehicles

As automation becomes increasingly common in commercial vehicles, legal and ethical questions surrounding their behavior and manufacturers’ liability grow in relevance. Mercedes-Benz prominently announced that their automated cars would prioritize the safety of the driver and passengers in the event of an unavoidable crash, citing the lower rate of accidents with their AI-driven vehicle and the unpredictability of the situation outside of the car to justify their decision. Other car companies have not addressed their position on the issue yet, though several – including Mercedes-Benz – have declared that they will accept legal responsibility for any crashes that occur while their vehicle is operating in an automated mode. Public response to the moral questions of cars’ behavior surrounding collisions has been mixed: people generally think that cars should not privilege their occupants, but say they would not buy an automated vehicle that prioritized the safety of pedestrians over that of the car’s occupants. Corporate, academic, and government researchers continue to investigate the best policies to put in place to regulate vehicles capable of making life and death decisions as the time approaches when such machines will become commonplace on public roads.

5/23/16 Mercedes-Benz’s website’s description of the company’s legal liability for automated vehicles: https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/mercedes-benz/next/automation/safety-has-top-priority-also-when-it-comes-to-legal-issues/

10/7/16 Car and Driver’s often-cited article about Mercedes-Benz’s statements regarding safety priorities for car occupants vs. people outside the vehicle. The article also mentions Audi’s and Volvo’s positions on their legal responsibilities: http://blog.caranddriver.com/self-driving-mercedes-will-prioritize-occupant-safety-over-pedestrians/

10/18/16 Official Daimler statement to clarify purported mistakes in their stance reported in the above Car and Driver article: http://media.daimler.com/marsMediaSite/en/instance/ko/Daimler-clarifies-Neither-programmers-nor-automated-systems-.xhtml?oid=14131869

1/12/17 Article addresses the Mercedes-Benz statements, with a mention of Volvo’s stance on their legal responsibilities: http://self-drivings.com/self-driving-cars-security-will-self-driving-cars-avoid-all-prudent-less-human-mistakes/

10/15/16 Article addresses the Mercedes-Benz statements with allusions to Mercedes-Benz’s later statement that they are not entitled to prioritize one life over another: http://fortune.com/2016/10/15/mercedes-self-driving-car-ethics/

10/12/16 Article addresses the Mercedes-Benz statements and includes interview with the author (Bonnefon) of a paper on autonomous vehicle ethics who credits Mercedes for bringing the topic to the public: http://www.businessinsider.com/mercedes-benz-self-driving-cars-programmed-save-driver-2016-10

10/20/16 Article addresses the Mercedes-Benz statements, with an interview with Bonnefon: http://www.drivingsales.com/news/the-ethical-complexities-of-self-driving-cars/

10/17/16 Article addresses the Mercedes-Benz statements, with a focus on Mercedes’s post-statement spin on their decision: http://jalopnik.com/now-mercedes-says-its-driverless-cars-wont-run-over-ped-1787890432

10/18/16 Article addresses the Mercedes-Benz statements, with a focus on Mercedes’s post-statement spin on their decision: http://charged.io/mercedes-clarifies-stance-trolley-problem/

10/12/16 Article addresses the Mercedes-Benz statements, with speculation about how legal policies about pedestrians might change: http://www.treehugger.com/cars/should-self-driving-cars-prioritize-pedestrians-or-drivers-safety.html

10/14/16 Article addresses the Mercedes-Benz statements: https://www.inverse.com/article/22204-mercedes-benz-self-driving-cars-ai-ethics

10/18/16 Article addresses the Mercedes-Benz statements: http://www.curbed.com/2016/10/18/13313282/driverless-cars-safety-mercedes-pedestrian

Article addresses the Mercedes-Benz statements: http://wwmt.com/news/auto-matters/mercedes-denies-claims-its-self-driving-cars-will-prioritize-own-occupants-over-other-road

10/18/16 Similar to Car and Driver’s article: http://www.itechpost.com/articles/43081/20161018/mercedes-benz-asserts%C2%A0its-self-driving-cars%C2%A0prioritize-safety-pedestrians-occupants-equally.htm

6/23/16 Similar to Car and Driver’s article: https://www.wired.com/2016/06/people-want-self-driving-cars-save-lives-especially/

1/9/17 Article includes a survey of NYC residents’ opinions about who autonomous vehicles should prioritize in the event of a collision: http://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/01/09/new-yorkers-want-driverless-cars-to-prioritize-pedestrian-safety/

10/27/16 Article describing potential traffic flow issues if pedestrians no longer fear being hit by vehicles: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/10/27/selfdriving_cars_will_be_bullied_by_pedestrians/

9/22/16 Article addressing Tesla crashes and whether car companies should be held legally accountable for crashes involving their autonomous vehicles: http://www.forbes.com/sites/omribenshahar/2016/09/22/should-carmakers-be-liable-when-a-self-driving-car-crashes/#bdfdc371f409

11/4/16 Article addressing various legal issues surrounding autonomous vehicles: http://www.engineering.com/DesignerEdge/DesignerEdgeArticles/ArticleID/13602/The-Legislation-Liabilities-and-Ethics-of-Self-Driving-Cars.aspx

7/29/15 Article addressing general ethical questions about autonomous vehicles: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/539731/how-to-help-self-driving-cars-make-ethical-decisions/

Photo from Daimler

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