Responsibility of crashes of autonomous vehicles, Hevelki and Rumelin

The authors address the ethical aspect of liability assignment in the case of the incoming emergence of autonomous vehicles. They raise the problematic implication of the intuitive tendency to assign the liability solely on the manufacture. They justifiably argue that this may lead to a fatal decrease of the manufacture incentive to enhance its product steadily because the company may find it non-paid off effort when having to face massive claims and expenses. On the other hand, a nonliability may cause the same consequence because manufacturers will lose any incentive to enhance their products as well. Hence they reach a conclusion in which a partial liability is likely to be imposed on the manufacturers and stepping forward from this point to address additional possible responsible subjects.

They raise the question that put in doubt the ethical intuition in which even a small portion of reduction on the amount of accidents that occur every year is satisfactory to justify the launch of autonomous vehicles. They assert that from a liberal democratic point of view, the precedence of an arbitrary group of innocent victims that may be affected due to the operation of autonomous vehicles over a higher amount of people that are involved in the current manual vehicles operation has no ground. This is due to the notion that liberalism evaluates in a higher degree the free choice and responsibility of the individual over a collective consequential point of view that merely evaluates an empiric casualties toll on the expense of the individual right to bear the results of his own actions.

Although that eventually the authors do not fully accept this argument, it is essential to point out that although it sounds like it makes a sense, it is in fact, senseless. The authors neglect the basic fact that nowadays people use other mass transportation vehicles such as boats, plains, or even the most common daily vehicle of taking a bus. Whilst we take a bus, we deliberately put our lives in a concrete plausible danger and give away a tremendous responsibility in someone’s else hands for our own lives. Does it really count if the third party operator of the vehicle of which we have no control is a human or machine whilst taking into account that a machine could be much safer than trusting a human? Does it bear any ramification with the notion of a liberal democracy? I may assume that these rhetorical questions are sufficient to show a counter perspective that is compatible with our intuition and yet does not raise any objection against our liberal democracies. Anyhow, a strict statement that a non-consequential point of view (e.g. a liberal point of view) may not ever trade off between any two options that involve an aggregation of human lives to a mere rational dilemma seems ludicrous. Refusing to trade off between one casualty of an arbitrary innocent man and ten culpable people is one thing, but does it still make sense to refuse to trade off between one to ten thousand of semi-culpable people whose lives could be saved annually by launching a new technology? If the intuition’s tendency is to clearly object that refusal, it merely implies that there is an extent at which the non-consequential argument begins to lose its ground.

The authors now examine the option to burden the liability on the users with two different types, The first is the driver’s obligation to intervene once an accident may occur, they point out that this possibility may be applied only during an intermediate phase in which autonomous vehicles are not fully robust and complex to handle extreme cases by their own. Hence once they will be capable of handling complex situations the driver liability will be valid but the contrary – it may cause more damage than benefit, thus it should be eventually prohibited. The other type of liability is regarding a general responsibility that derived from the conception that the user always hold a responsibility for the products he uses some extent. The user should acknowledge that using autonomous vehicles consist of plausible ramification which he should take in advance though he may not control the outcome. I should point out that this notion of liability is saliently different from the current liability that a driver bears. Because the former bears only an anonymous responsibility for the action that may be covered by an insurance company rather than a personal reprehensible guilt of an action that is due to his own negligence.

In my point of view, a decent integration between two major types of liability assignment (e.g. The manufacturer and the driver) makes a sense and likely to guarantee the desired outcome – a gradual enhancement of the autonomous vehicles with a constant decrease of casualties.

Finally, I wish to propose few suggestions how to properly maintain this revolutionary emergence of my own -

* Once autonomous vehicles will be launched – The highest allowed speed amount should be cut down by at least a third, this will guarantee a tremendous decline in the amount of accidents additional to the decline that will be followed by the launch and will enable some time to the new system to permeate.

* Once autonomous vehicles are proved to show better performance than human in the manner of safety, a new legislation should be applied to prohibit the use of manual operation vehicles because human and machine on the same road would likely to cause too much trouble.

* Once the new autonomous system is functional, The highest allowed speed amount should be gradually raised, restore to its origin and even surpass it by far. The government should then raise the cost of holding a private vehicle that it won’t be worthwhile for the mass, a highly effective service of autonomous vehicles network should take a place instead. This may assist to reduce tremendously the amount of vehicles on the roads and on the road sides. That would be a vast environmental improvement as well.

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