Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About usFaculty of PhilosophyEducationThesis summaries

Meenen, D.M. van

Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

Machine Ethics in Autonomous Cars

A topic that bridges philosophical theory and practice is roboethics. This new area of research not only reflects on ethical issues that arise with the increasingly complex artificial intelligences that are being developed, but also analyses if and to what degree moral agency is possible in an artificial intelligence. Machine ethics is concerned with the latter and focuses on the implementation of morality into a machine. This thesis investigates the possibility and desirability of moral agency in autonomous cars and how such artificial moral agency might look like. These cars should be viewed as weak moral agents, meaning that there is a need for them to `act’ as if they were moral agents when moral crash situations occur, although these machines do not display real understanding. The moral decision-making capacities of autonomous cars might theoretically be implemented in two different ways: top-down and bottom-up. However, both approaches are likely to be inadequate for a fully sound moral module. A more basic utilitarian approach may currently be a better option than having autonomous cars with no moral module at all. This limitation may be offset by the (amoral) safety benefits that autonomous cars offer compared to cars driven by humans.

Last modified:23 July 2015 5.01 p.m.