Irresponsibilities, inequalities and injustice for autonomous vehicles

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With their prospect for causing both novel and known forms of damage, harm and injury, the issue of responsibility has been a recurring theme in the debate concerning autonomous vehicles. Yet, the discussion of responsibility has obscured the finer details both between the underlying concepts of responsibility, and their application to the interaction between human beings and artificial decision-making entities. By developing meaningful distinctions and examining their ramifications, this article contributes to this debate by refining the underlying concepts that together inform the idea of responsibility. Two different approaches are offered to the question of responsibility and autonomous vehicles: targeting and risk distribution.
The article then introduces a thought experiment which situates autonomous vehicles within the context of crash optimisation impulses and coordinated or networked decision-making. It argues that guiding ethical frameworks overlook compound or aggregated effects which may arise, and which can lead to subtle forms of structural discrimination. Insofar as such effects remain unrecognised by the legal systems relied upon to remedy them, the potential for societal inequalities is increased and entrenched, situations of injustice and impunity may be unwittingly maintained. This second set of concerns may represent a hitherto overlooked type of responsibility gap arising from inadequate accountability processes capable of challenging systemic risk displacement.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthics and Information Technology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)193-207
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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