Last modified on August 28, 2023

How to deliver safe, ethical, equitable road use with automated vehicles

How to deliver safe, ethical, equitable road use with automated vehicles

25 August 2023

The introduction of automated vehicles in our transport system over the
coming decades is expected to increase significantly the safety, efficiency and accessibility of our roads. However, says Dr Nick Reed from Reed Mobility, “as technology developers rush to build, test and trial such vehicles, it seems an important element is being overlooked – making sure that self-driving
vehicles are deployed and operated in such a way that the communities affected by their presence come to appreciate them.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems controlling AVs could not derive the ethical principles that sit behind the behaviours they display, suggesting that AVs should be guided by overarching ethical goal functions (EGFs). These create a framework, governed by regulators, to embody societal expectations of AV behaviour and should be determined by an inclusive, deliberative process with the communities in which AVs operate.

The project “Ethical roads”, coordinated by Reed Mobility, and funded by the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, has recently published its final report. The project developed a process enabling AV technology developers and transport regulators to engage with the public and establish societal preferences, and align EGFs accordingly to guide AI systems.

The report describes:

  • the rationale behind the study – how we need to engage with the public to ensure that self-driving vehicles deliver the safe and prosperous mobility future that has been promised
  • the method and results for a survey and workshops in which members of the were asked how they would expect urban self-driving buses to behave and to be operated in their community
  • the implications for the development of self-driving vehicles and how this can deliver on William Rees Jeffreys’ vision for the future of roads