Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

Ethics committee on automated driving

The Ministry of Transport set up a commission to answer ethical questions regarding computer-controlled vehicles. The head of ITAS is a member of this advisory board which met for the first time on 1 October in Berlin.
Member of the new ethics committee of the Ministry of Transport: ITAS head Armin Grunwald (photo: Markus Breig / KIT)

What should automated vehicles do if they are involved in an accident?  Autonomous mobility does not only raise technical but also ethical questions. In order to find answers, Federal Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt set up an ethics committee. The expert group consists of 14 members from the fields of transport, law, information technology, consumer protection, and the economy. The head of ITAS, Armin Grunwald, contributes his expertise in technology assessment and ethics of risk.                                                                                                               

"The behavior of autonomous vehicles in borderline situations is of great interest to the public and of course has to be the subject of an ethics committee", explained Grunwald during the first meeting of the commission on 1 October in Berlin. According to the philosopher of technology, an ethical assessment especially has to take account of today’s normal operation which causes thousands of deaths every year in Germany alone, destroys the environment, and hampers the quality of life in many ways. "Ethically legitimate forms of future mobility like autonomous driving have to be better than the present regarding these aspects. The potential is there, but it has to be steered in the right direction in a responsible way", Grunwald expresses his expectations.

The ethics committee is supposed to develop guidelines for the programming of automated driving systems. First results are expected for summer 2017. (05.10.2016)

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