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Addressing Inequal Risk Exposure in the Development of Automated Vehicles

Manuel Dietrich, "Addressing Inequal Risk Exposure in the Development of Automated Vehicles ", Ethics and Information Technology, 2021.


Automated vehicles (AVs) are expected to operate on public roads, together with non-automated vehicles and other road users such as pedestrians or bicycles. Recent ethical reports and guidelines raise worries that AVs will introduce injustice or reinforce existing social inequalities in road traffic. One major injustice concern in today’s traffic is that different types of road users are exposed differently to risks of corporal harm. In the first part of the paper, we discuss the responsibility of AV developers to address existing injustice concerns regarding risk exposure as well as approaches on how to fulfill the responsibility for a fairer distribution of risk. In contrast to popular approaches on the ethics of risk distribution in unavoidable accident cases, we focus on low and moderate risk situations, referred to as routine driving. For routine driving, the obligation to distribute risks fairly must be discussed in the context of risk-taking and risk-acceptance, balancing safety objectives of occupants and other road users with driving utility. In the second part of the paper, we present a typical architecture for decentralized automated driving which contains a dedicated module for real-time risk estimation and management. We examine how risk estimation modules can be adjusted and parameterized to redress some inequalities.

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