The Ethical Knob

15 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2016 Last revised: 18 Oct 2017

See all articles by Giuseppe Contissa

Giuseppe Contissa

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW); University of Bologna - Research Center of History of Law, Philosophy and Sociology of Law, and Computer Science and Law (CIRSFID)

Francesca Lagioia

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW); University of Bologna - Research Center of History of Law, Philosophy and Sociology of Law, and Computer Science and Law (CIRSFID)

Giovanni Sartor

European University Institute Law Department

Date Written: October 17, 2017

Abstract

Accidents involving autonomous vehicles (AVs) raise difficult ethical dilemmas and legal issues. It has been argued that self-driving cars should be programmed to kill, that is, they should be equipped with preprogrammed approaches to the choice of what lives to sacrifice when losses are inevitable. Here we shall explore a different approach, namely, giving the user/passenger the task (and burden) of deciding what ethical approach should be taken by AVs in unavoidable accident scenarios. We thus assume that AVs are equipped with what we call an "Ethical Knob'', a device enabling passengers to ethically customise their AVs, namely, to choose between different settings corresponding to different moral approaches or principles. Accordingly, AVs would be entrusted with implementing users' ethical choices, while manufacturers/programmers would be tasked with enabling the user's choice and ensuring implementation by the AV.

Keywords: autonomus car, liability, ethical dilemma, ethical knob, automation, AV, legal issues

Suggested Citation

Contissa, Giuseppe and Lagioia, Francesca and Sartor, Giovanni, The Ethical Knob (October 17, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2881280 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2881280

Giuseppe Contissa (Contact Author)

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
50-139 Firenze
ITALY

University of Bologna - Research Center of History of Law, Philosophy and Sociology of Law, and Computer Science and Law (CIRSFID) ( email )

Via Galliera 3
I-40121 Bologna
Italy

Francesca Lagioia

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
50-139 Firenze
Italy

University of Bologna - Research Center of History of Law, Philosophy and Sociology of Law, and Computer Science and Law (CIRSFID) ( email )

Via Galliera 3
I-40121 Bologna
Italy

Giovanni Sartor

European University Institute Law Department ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
50-139 Firenze
ITALY

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