The ethical implications of autonomous driving, to debate and study

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Barcelona, October 3, 2018.- The German Government has published a report on the ethical scenario of autonomous driving. A little explored terrain that needs study and debate during the next months. The era of autonomous driving starts, but there are laws and rules to be created. Next, we publish a summary and we invite you to share your opinion in this Blog or in @_setram

Ethical considerations linked to the protection of human life and integrity, freedom of choice or the right to privacy, among others, have to be prominently addressed in the development and operation of CAD. Addressing legitimate societal concerns on the ethics of CAD must have a central role in the process of securing public and societal acceptance and trust.

The Ethics Task Force delivers the following recommendations on possible future actions, which are further explained in the subsequent section (IV.)
of this report. Depending on the ethical issue, these recommendations may require further extensive assessment and discussion. Joint collaboration in this context between industry, academia, civil society and regulators at both EU and Member State level could help Europe lead the international discussion when it comes to formulating an ethical framework for CAD.

The European Commission has made a proposal to set up a dedicated forum to deal with ethical implications.2 The Ethics Task Force welcomes that step and would be ready and willing to support the process of establishing the forum and its work, e.g. by sharing its experience and the knowledge acquired.

The Ethics Task Force suggests that – until this new group is set up and fully operational and the exact scope of its mandate is clear – it stands at the disposal of the High Level Structural Dialogue for any other tasks required.

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The Ethics Task Force recommends:

  1. Further actions to better understand public perceptions, concerns, and potential behaviours and responses, with regard to CAD and its ethical implications:

At the national level:

  1. Raising the profile of current social and behavioural research, to encourage user-centred design for the development of CAD and to understand its likely uptake;
  2. Encouraging further projects which offer a mix of technical and social research with regard to CAD and its ethical implications;
  3. Supporting knowledge sharing and coordination between CAD research projects.

At the European level:

  1. Raising the profile of current social and behavioural research, to encourage user-centred design for the development of CAD and to understand its likely uptake;
  2. Encouraging further projects which offer a mix of technical and social research with regard to CAD and its ethical implications;
  3. Continuing to support knowledge sharing and coordination between research projects, to accelerate learning and avoid duplication of effort between organisations and Member States;
  4. Promoting European research globally, to encourage global knowledge-sharing; and
  5. Fostering a wider societal debate on the role of ethics in the development and uptake of CAD in Europe.
  1. Establishing a plan for public information communications on CAD, to give sufficient explanations of CAD functionalities, their benefits and limitations, questions of equal access and fairness, as well as the proper use of CAD and associated user responsibilities. At the national level:
  1. That public information communications around CAD should be informed by research with the public and tailored and delivered at the national level, as different countries will have different values, perceptions and concerns.
  2. Governments should identify their role in handling public acceptability issues with regard to CAD, including whether there is a need for government to intervene at all. If there is, they should identify how (who is the best messenger; what should the message be) and when is appropriate, according to the national context.

At the European level:

  1. Preparing an ‘information pack’: a guidance document of public information/verified statistics for governments to use as they see fit. Any such information should be meaningful for governments (i.e. providing realistic comparisons) and the public. Given the rapid development of CAD technologies, the EU may be well placed to coordinate updates and disseminate the latest information;

The Ethics Task Force suggests that a proposal for such an ́information pack ́ is presented
to the High Level Structural Dialogue by the European Commission.

  1. Sharing best practice from successful public information campaigns at the national level (in Europe and around the globe), for all Member States to learn from.
  1. Dilemma-based Situations

The Ethics Task Force recommends

  1. Developing a harmonised European and international approach to handle dilemma-based situations with regard to CAD. This could include drafting guidelines and/ or recommendations.
  2. Further international discussion and research at the European level on the issue of reducing personal injury in genuine dilemma-based situations, i.e situations in which a CAV will unavoidably cause harm to a human being, and must decide how to proceed.

Both actions should be implemented by an appropriate group of experts at European level comprising international expertise. An account of this work should be given to the High Level Structural Dialogue.

  1. Responsibility

The Ethics Task Force recommends:

  1. The European Commission should – in due consideration of the whole responsibility network and hardware and software implications – examine the need for action in the respective EU legal framework for liability, especially with regard to Council Directive 85/374/EEC of 25 July 1985 concerning liability for defective products (product liability) and give an account of this assessment to the High Level Structural Dialogue.
  2. Member States should – with regard to the changes in the responsibility network – examine their national responsibility network in road transport, including amongst others map service providers, road operators and telecommunication operators, and adapt legislation where needed.
  1. Cybersecurity and Data Protection

The Ethics Task Force recommends:

  1. Member States and the European Commission should continue to support the work carried out at United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Working Party 29 on data protection and cybersecurity, especially the regulation on cybersecurity and over- the-air software updates currently being developed, and actively follow this process and incorporate the results into EU policy and regulation.
  2. Member States should proactively seek to promote – within their competencies – the importance of a high level of cybersecurity throughout the entire manufacturing supply chain.
  3. Member States, the European Commission and Industry should highlight the importance of data protection issues – amongst others the necessity to ensure data sovereignty, i.e. road users should generally be able to decide themselves whether their vehicle data are to be forwarded and used – raised by the Ethics Task Force and should transfer these considerations into the ongoing initiatives addressing data protection in CAD.
  1. Socio-economic Implications

The Ethics Task Force recommends:

  1. The European Commission should – in light of the results of the recent study on possible socio-economic effects of CAD in Europe3 and a new study to explore possible implications on employment (Horizon 2020 Transport Work Programme 2018-2020) – assess possible necessary actions on EU level to address current and future socio-economic impacts of CAD, e.g. on the labour market, and give an account of this assessment to the High Level Structural Dialogue.
  2. Member States should examine potential national actions to address current and future socio-economic impacts of CAD, e.g. on the labour market.

In a shift of responsibility raising fundamental questions including ethical issues. Can machines be made responsible for the misbehaviour of a machine, if machines and not human beings steer vehicles, and (programmed) algorithms make decisions? Who would be responsible in case of an accident: the software engineer, the manufacturer, third- party providers, (telecommunications) operators and/ or even the passenger?

Ethical Issues of Responsibility (Responsibility Network)

On one hand, the question of responsibility is linked to the notion of ‘autonomy’, which is understood in the Kantian sense of ‘moral autonomy’ or the ability of humans to give themselves a set of moral instructions guiding  their behaviour.In effect, this means that humans should have the final say in taking decisions which may result in harm or damage to humans and, conversely, it is morally unacceptable to let machines decide over the life or death of [a] human being[s]. This is the basic premise of the principle of meaningful human control.

Etymologically, “responsibility” relates to the ability or duty to give a “response”. In the context of CAD, responsibility could also mean “the duty of a person to account for decisions taken by and attendant actions performed by the automated vehicle system and/ or the software on which it is based, to assume liability and, if necessary, be willing to accept any legal consequences”.

Thus, the term responsibility embraces the ability to be held accountable and implicitly assumes that a person has certain capacities that allow them to take responsibility, such as the ability to communicate and to act, autonomy and good judgment. For a questionable event with complex constellations of actors, we attribute responsibility to all those parties involved to the extent that they demonstrate or have taken on the necessary capacity for such an

attribution of responsibility. In the responsibility network of road transport, all stakeholders have to be integrated when talking about the assignment of responsibility, such as the human driver, the vehicle owner/ keeper, the manufacturer, the operator of technological systems, the infrastructure operator, the planner, the general public, the lawyer, the trainer and many more.

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