Do Automated Vehicles Face Moral Dilemmas?: a Plea for a Political Approach
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Automated vehiclesTrolley problemEthicsPoliticsPolitical minimalismPolitical realismPolitical moralism
Philosophy of Technology, 33
How should automated vehicles (AVs) react in emergency circumstances? Most research projects and scientific literature deal with this question from a moral perspective. In particular, it is customary to treat emergencies involving AVs as instances of moral dilemmas and to use the trolley problem as a framework to address such alleged dilemmas. Some critics have pointed out some shortcomings of this strategy and have urged to focus on mundane traffic situations instead of trolley cases involving AVs. Besides, these authors rightly point out the political nature of the most interesting debates involving AVs. However, in our view, they do not offer an adequate account of the distinction between ethics and politics and still see their proposals as contributions to the ethics of AVs. We argue that many of the interesting questions about how AVs should behave, both in emergency and other situations, are of political, and not moral, nature. This view is based on a conception of politics and political normativity that we have developed elsewhere and that we call “political minimalism.” Additionally, we show that this proposed perspective has significant consequences for the design, management, and regulation of transport systems.
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