The Trolley, the Bull Bar, and Why Engineers Should Care About the Ethics of Autonomous Cars

Jean-François Bonnefon, Azim Shariff, and Iyad Rahwan


Everyone agrees that autonomous cars ought to save lives. Even if the cars do not live up to the most optimistic estimates of eliminating 90% of traffic fatalities [1], eliminating at least some traffic fatalities is one of the key promises of automated driving. Indeed, the first two principles of the German Ethics Code for Automated and Connected Vehicles lead with this goal as a normative imperative [2].The primary purpose of partly and fully automated transport systems is to improve safety for all road users. The licensing of automated systems is not justifiable unless it promises to produce at least a diminution in harm compared with human driving [...].

Published in

Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 107, n. 3, March 2019, pp. 502–504