Human drivers navigate the roadways by balancing values such as safety, legality, and mobility. An autonomous vehicle driving on the same roadways as humans likely needs to navigate based on similar values. For engineers of autonomous vehicle technology, the challenge is then to connect these human values to the algorithm design.
Ethical Decision Making for Autonomous Vehicles
Human drivers navigate the roadways by balancing values such as safety, legality, and mobility. The public will likely judge an autonomous vehicle by similar values. The iterative methodology of value sensitive design formalizes the connection of human values to engineering specifications. We apply a modified value sensitive design methodology to the development of an autonomous vehicle speed control algorithm to safely navigate an occluded pedestrian crosswalk.
Ethical frameworks and principles from philosophy have long been used to characterize human behavior. As driving is transitioning from human control to automated control, these ethical frameworks can be used to guide engineering design decisions for autonomous vehicles in a responsible manner. In particular, moral regulation provides two methods for guiding behavior. Proscriptive strategies emphasize rules, transgressions, and forbidding rule violation. Prescriptive strategies encourage achievement of goals.
Not only do automated vehicles need to meet specifications for technical performance, they also need to satisfy the societal expectations for behavior in traffic with humans. Societal expectations, such as accident avoidance and adherence to traffic laws, have their foundation in core moral issues found in philosophy and ethics. Thus, engineers designing control algorithms for automated vehicles can benefit from applying principles and frameworks from philosophy to drive design decisions.
As agents moving through an environment that includes a range of other road users—from pedestrians and bicyclists to other human or automated drivers—automated vehicles continuously interact with the humans around them. The nature of these interactions is a result of the programming in the vehicle and the priorities placed there by the programmers.
As agents moving through an environment that includes a range of other road users – from pedestrians and cyclists to other human or automated drivers – automated vehicles continuously interact with the humans around them. The nature of these interactions is a result of the programming in the vehicle and the priorities placed there by the programmers. Just as human drivers display a range of driving styles and preferences, automated vehicles represent a broad canvas on which the designers can craft the response to different driving scenarios.