Regulating Driverless Cars: New Recommendations Published

Once machines of fantasy, confined to the pages of science fiction novels, driverless cars are today an all too real phenomena. Over the last few years, vehicular technology has increased exponentially and Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) are now in use across the globe. The European Commission has published a set of recommendations for a safe and ethical transition towards driverless mobility. 

While the digitalisation of transport brings exciting opportunities for mobility, it simultaneously presents significant philosophical, legal and practical challenges for policy makers. Who is held responsible a collision? How can ethical and responsible data sharing by CAVs be ensured? What are the risks to pedestrians and cyclists? How can CAVs be used in conjunction with sustainable mobility agendas?

These concerns are already posing problems for lawmakers and manufacturers. In 2018 we saw the first recorded pedestrian fatality when an autonomous Uber car killed a woman in the street in Arizona; meanwhile, last week a Canadian driver was charged with dangerous driving for allegedly sleeping while his self-driving Tesla car hit 90mph.

Whether we like it or not, “smart” vehicles are here to stay, and regulators- at both and national and international levels- are under growing pressure to respond.

The European Commission has long grappled with this issue, and its strategy on Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility (CCAM) aims to pioneer Europe’s development and deployment of CAVs.

In 2019, the Commission formed an independent Expert Group to advise on ethical issues raised by driverless mobility to explore technical, regulatory and societal challenges of CAV deployment.

This group has now published a report on Ethics of Connected and Automated Vehicles, addressing issues related to road safety, privacy, fairness, AI explainability and responsibility, laying out a series of recommendations for researchers, policymakers and manufacturers in the safe and responsible transition towards CAVs.

Technological progress alone will not be sufficient for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) to achieve their potential,” says Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

From inception to use, the timely and systematic integration of ethical principles will be essential to align this emerging technology with our societal values and needs."

The 20 recommendations are:

  1. Ensure that CAVs reduce physical harm to persons.
  2. Prevent unsafe use by inherently safe design.
  3. Define clear standards for responsible open road testing.
  4. Consider revision of traffic rules to promote safety of CAVs and investigate exceptions to non-compliance with existing rules by CAVs.
  5. Redress inequalities in vulnerability among road users.
  6. Manage dilemmas by principles of risk distribution and shared ethical principles.
  7. Safeguard informational privacy and informed consent.
  8. Enable user choice, seek informed consent options and develop related best practice industry standards.
  9. Develop measures to foster protection of individuals at group level.
  10. Develop transparency strategies to inform users and pedestrians about data collection and associated rights. 11. Prevent discriminatory differential service provision.
  11. Audit CAV algorithms.
  12. Identify and protect CAV relevant high-value datasets as public and open infrastructural resources.
  13. Reduce opacity in algorithmic decisions.
  14. Promote data, algorithmic, AI literacy and public participation.
  15. Identify the obligations of different agents involved in CAVs.
  16. Promote a culture of responsibility with respect to the obligations associated with CAVs.
  17. Ensure accountability for the behaviour of CAVs (duty to explain).
  18. Promote a fair system for the attribution of moral and legal culpability for the behaviour of CAVs.
  19. Create fair and effective mechanisms for granting compensation to victims of crashes or other accidents involving CAVs.

Read the full report here