Articles  |    |  June 27, 2018

Automated cars meet human drivers: responsible human-robot coordination and the ethics of mixed traffic

Peer-reviewed article by Sven Nyholm and Jilles Smids.
Published in Ethics and Information Technology.


In this paper, we discuss the ethics of automated driving. More specifically, we discuss responsible human-robot coordination within mixed traffic: i.e. traffic involving both automated cars and conventional human-driven cars. We do three main things.

  • First, we explain key differences in robotic and human agency and expectation-forming mechanisms that are likely to give rise to compatibility-problems in mixed traffic, which may lead to crashes and accidents.
  • Second, we identify three possible solution-strategies for achieving better human-robot coordination within mixed traffic.
  • Third, we identify important ethical challenges raised by each of these three possible strategies for achieving optimized human-robot cordination in this domain.

Among other things, we argue that we should not just explore ways of making robotic driving more like human driving. Rather, we ought also to take seriously potential ways (e.g. technological means) of making human driving more like robotic driving. Nor should we assume that complete automation is always the ideal to aim for; in some traffic-situations, the best results may be achieved through human-robot collaboration. Ultimately, our main aim in this paper is to argue that the new field of the ethics of automated driving needs take seriously the ethics of mixed traffic and responsible human-robot coordination.