From Driverless Dilemmas to More Practical Common-Sense Tests for Automated Vehicles


Bryant Walker Smith - 0000-0001-9706-1333

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For the first time in history, automated vehicles (AVs) are being deployed in populated environments. This unprecedented transformation of our everyday lives demands a significant undertaking: endowing complex autonomous systems with ethically acceptable behavior. We outline how one prominent, ethically relevant component of AVs—driving behavior—is inextricably linked to stakeholders in the technical, regulatory, and social spheres of the field. Whereas humans are presumed (rightly or wrongly) to have the “common sense” to behave ethically in new driving situations beyond a standard driving test, AVs do not (and probably should not) enjoy this presumption. We examine, at a high level, how to test the common sense of an AV. We start by reviewing discussions of “driverless dilemmas,” adaptions of the traditional “trolley dilemmas” of philosophy that have sparked discussion on AV ethics but have limited use to the technical and legal spheres. Then, we explain how to substantially change the premises and features of these dilemmas (while preserving their behavioral diagnostic spirit) in order to lay the foundations for a more practical and relevant framework that tests driving common sense as an integral part of road rules testing.