The Ethical Knob
15 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2016 Last revised: 18 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 17, 2017
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
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