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Front. Behav. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00031

Autonomous Vehicles Require Socio-Political Acceptance — An Empirical and Philosophical Perspective on the Problem of Moral Decision Making

 Lasse T. Bergmann1*,  Larissa Schlicht1,  Carmen Meixner1,  Peter König1,  Gordon Pipa1, Susanne Boshammer2 and Achim Stephan1
  • 1Institute of Cognitive Science, Osnabrück University, Germany
  • 2Institute of Philosophy, Osnabrück University, Germany

Autonomous vehicles, though having enormous potential, face a number of challenges. As a computer system interacting with society on a large scale and human beings in particular, they will encounter situations, which require moral assessment. What will count as right behavior in such situations depends on which factors are considered to be both morally justified and socially acceptable. In an empirical study we investigated what factors people recognize as relevant in driving situations. The study put subjects in several “dilemma” situations, which were designed to isolate different and potentially relevant factors. Subjects showed a surprisingly high willingness to sacrifice themselves to save other, took the age of potential victims in a crash into consideration and were willing to swerve onto a sidewalk if this saved more lives. The empirical insights are intended to provide a starting point for a discussion, ultimately yielding societal agreement whereby the empirical insights should be balanced with philosophical considerations.

Keywords: Autonomous vehicles, experimental philosophy, Moral cognition, Decision Making, social acceptance, trolley problems

Received: 17 Oct 2017; Accepted: 12 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Pietro Pietrini, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Italy

Reviewed by:

Claudio Lucchiari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy
Mirko D. Garasic, UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights, Italy  

Copyright: © 2018 Bergmann, Schlicht, Meixner, König, Pipa, Boshammer and Stephan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Lasse T. Bergmann, Osnabrück University, Institute of Cognitive Science, Osnabrück, Germany,