Highly automated driving – the ethical challenges

05.07.2017 - 18:00

Univ.-Prof. i. R. Dr. Dr. h.c. Dieter Birnbacher

Institut für Philosophie, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

Highly automated driving holds the promise of impressive advantages in traffic security. At the same time, it raises a variety of ethical as well as legal questions. These concern not only decisions about the morally "right" reaction in critical situations but also the basic question of acceptable risk. In anticipating future decisions by programming autonomous vehicles producers and licensing agencies assume a formidable responsibility.It is argued that the solution is to be sought in a uniform system that is supported by a broad societal consensus. The greatest technical challenge is a comprehensive situation analysis that functions reliably as the basis of automatic moral decision-making. A clear separation of modules is advantageous under aspects of development and qualification.The greatest ethical challenge is to choose from the possible ethical options for implementation in the decision algorithm. Though the results of the necessary public discourse cannot be anticipated, a number of options can be presented that might serve as reference points of the debate.