Articles  |  ,   |  September 1, 2016

Away from Trolley Problems and Toward Risk Management

Article by Noah J. Goodall.
Published in Applied Artificial Intelligence.


As automated vehicles receive more attention from the media, there has been an equivalent increase in the coverage of the ethical choices a vehicle may be forced to make in certain crash situations with no clear safe outcome. Much of this coverage has focused on a philosophical thought experiment known as the “trolley problem,” and substituting an automated vehicle for the trolley and the car’s software for the bystander. While this is a stark and straightforward example of ethical decision making for an automated vehicle, it risks marginalizing the entire field if it is to become the only ethical problem in the public’s mind. In this chapter, I discuss the shortcomings of the trolley problem, and introduce more nuanced examples that involve crash risk and uncertainty. Risk management is introduced as an alternative approach, and its ethical dimensions are discussed.