ETHICS & SELF-DRIVING CARS

Real-world Ethics for Self-Driving Cars

Ethical and social problems of the emerging technology of self-driving cars can best be addressed through an applied engineering ethical approach. However, currently social and ethical problems are typically being presented in terms of an idealized unsolvable decision-making problem, the so-called Trolley Problem.

Instead, we propose that ethical analysis should focus on the study of ethics of complex real-world engineering problems. As software plays a crucial role in the control of self-driving cars, software engineering solutions should handle actual ethical and social considerations.

We take a closer look at the regulative instruments, standards, design, and implementations of components, systems, and services and we present practical social and ethical challenges that must be met in the ecology of the socio-technological system of self-driving cars which implies novel expectations for software engineering in the automotive industry.

Interactive Presentation for ICSE 2020 (Poster)

Research for Self-Driving Cars

Multi-Disciplinary Research

Self-Driving Cars, autonomous systems and the future of transportation systems (the larger context) requires multi-disciplinary research in order to overcome social as well as technical challenges. Seeing the research in a meta-context, it is actually an iterative, circular process with 3 phases: technological advancement, laws & regulations, and integration. The latter is of utmost importance, since this technology, the self-driving car, will affect everyone and the acceptance by people, i.e. how self-driving cars can be integrated, is probably a topic as big as the industrial revolution.

Research Papers

Holstein, T., Dodig-Crnkovic, G., & Pelliccione, P. (2021). Steps Towards Real-world Ethics for Self-driving Cars: Beyond the Trolley Problem. In Steven John Thompson (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Machine Ethics and Morality. IGI Global.

Research on self-driving cars is transdisciplinary and its different aspects have attracted interest in general public debates as well as among specialists. To this day, ethical discourses are dominated by the Trolley Problem, a hypothetical ethical dilemma that is by construction unsolvable. It obfuscates much bigger real-world ethical challenges in the design, development, and operation of self-driving cars. We propose a systematic approach that connects processes, components, systems, and stakeholders to analyze the real-world ethical challenges for the ecology of socio-technological system of self-driving cars. We take a closer look at the regulative instruments, standards, design, and implementations of components, systems, and services and we present practical social and ethical challenges that must be met and that imply novel expectations for engineering in car industry.

to be published.
Holstein, T., Dodig-Crnkovic, G., & Pelliccione, P. (2020). Real-world Ethics for Self-Driving Cars. In Proceedings of the 42nd International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE ’20) Poster Track.

Ethical and social problems of the emerging technology of self-driving cars can best be addressed through an applied engineering ethical approach. However, currently social and ethical problems are typically being presented in terms of an idealized unsolvable decision-making problem, the so-called Trolley Problem. Instead, we propose that ethical analysis should focus on the study of ethics of complex real-world engineering problems. As software plays a crucial role in the control of self-driving cars, software engineering solutions should handle actual ethical and social considerations. We take a closer look at the regulative instruments, standards, design, and implementations of components, systems, and services and we present practical social and ethical challenges that must be met in the ecology of the socio-technological system of self-driving cars which implies novel expectations for software engineering in the automotive industry.

Poster

Holstein, T., and Dodig-Crnkovic, G. (2018). Avoiding the Intrinsic Unfairness of the Trolley Problem. In Proceedings of the International Workshop on Software Fairness (FairWare ’18). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 32–37.

As an envisaged future of transportation, self-driving cars are being discussed from various perspectives, including social, economical, engineering, computer science, design, and ethical aspects. On the one hand, self-driving cars present new engineering problems that are being gradually successfully solved. On the other hand, social and ethical problems have up to now being presented in the form of an idealized unsolvable decision-making problem, the so-called "trolley problem", which is built on the assumptions that are neither technically nor ethically justifiable. The intrinsic unfairness of the trolley problem comes from the assumption that lives of different people have different values.

In this paper, techno-social arguments are used to show the infeasibility of the trolley problem when addressing the ethics of self-driving cars. We argue that different components can contribute to an "unfair" behaviour and features, which requires ethical analysis on multiple levels and stages of the development process. Instead of an idealized and intrinsically unfair thought experiment, we present real-life techno-social challenges relevant for the domain of software fairness in the context of self-driving cars.

Holstein, T., Dodig-Crnkovic, G., & Pelliccione, P. (2018). Ethical and Social Aspects of Self-Driving Cars. ArXiv, abs/1802.04103.

As an envisaged future of transportation, self-driving cars are being discussed from various perspectives, including social, economical, engineering, computer science, design, and ethics. On the one hand, self-driving cars present new engineering problems that are being gradually successfully solved. On the other hand, social and ethical problems are typically being presented in the form of an idealized unsolvable decision-making problem, the so-called trolley problem, which is grossly misleading. We argue that an applied engineering ethical approach for the development of new technology is what is needed; the approach should be applied, meaning that it should focus on the analysis of complex real-world engineering problems. Software plays a crucial role for the control of self-driving cars; therefore, software engineering solutions should seriously handle ethical and social considerations. In this paper we take a closer look at the regulative instruments, standards, design, and implementations of components, systems, and services and we present practical social and ethical challenges that have to be met, as well as novel expectations for software engineering.

Holstein, T. (2017). The Misconception of Ethical Dilemmas in Self- Driving Cars. Proceedings of the IS4SI 2017 Summit DIGITALISATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY, Gothenburg, Sweden, 1(3), 2–4.

Self-driving cars are a transdisciplinary topic and well discussed in public and science. However, ethical dilemmas, such as the trolley problem, seem to dominate those discussions and consequently obfuscate much bigger ethical challenges in the development and operation of self-driving cars. We propose a systematic approach by creating a conceptual ethical model that connects components, systems and stakeholders to pinpoint ethical challenges for self-driving cars. This will help to move away from stagnating discussions over abstract thought experiments and to move forward to address and solve actual ethical challenges.

CONTACT

CONTACT

W'd love your feedback!

Tobias Holstein

Tobias Holstein

Mälardalen University, Sweden

Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, Germany

Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic

Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic

University of Gothenburg & Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden

Mälardalen University, Sweden

Patrizio Pelliccione

Patrizio Pelliccione

University of Gothenburg & Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden

University of L'Aquila, Italy

Germany, Sweden, Italy
Email: av-research [*at*] ethics [*dot*] se