Self-driving car industry fails on policy transparency

Companies in the self-driving cars industry fail to disclose information on their policies on the safety of autonomous vehicles. A worldwide survey conducted among 58 players in this field resulted in a response of just one corporation, leaving consumers in the dark about automated decisions in the case of unavoidable accidents.

Self-driving cars are starting to enter traffic. Inevitably in some cases they will have to choose between non-optimal outcomes, such as running over pedestrians or sacrificing themselves and their passenger to save others. FullAI has run a survey among producers and technology suppliers of autonomous vehicles to obtain transparency about their policies on how their cars are programmed to react in situations in which a collision is unavoidable.

In the survey companies were asked about their opinion on the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on the ethical rules drafted by a commission of the German Federal Ministry of Transport and on a study by the University of Osnabrück which suggests that human moral behaviour can be well-described by algorithms and used by autonomous cars to manage moral dilemmas on the road.

Of the 58 companies which were approached, only the producer of Mercedes Benz cars Daimler AG responded with a partial response to the questions in the survey. The German car maker refers to its earlier statement that an international legal framework on autonomous driving is an “unresolved issue”.

FullAI understands the difficulties that unavoidable collisions pose to car makers, as clearly put forward in a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Oregon and the Toulouse School of Economics. The study’s participants would for instance like others to buy self-driving cars that sacrifice their passengers for the greater good, while they themselves would prefer to ride in automated vehicles that protect their passengers at all costs.

It is because of these kinds of dilemmas FullAI feels transparency on companies’ policies is needed with the ultimate goal of reducing traffic casualties.


Image: Ed and Eddie