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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02415

Moral Judgements on the Actions of Self-driving Cars and Human Drivers in Dilemma Situations from Different Perspectives

  • 1Institute of Cognitive Science, Osnabrück University, Germany
  • 2Institute of Philosophy, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany
  • 3Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, Center of Experimental Medicine, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

Self-driving cars have the potential to greatly improve public
safety. However, their introduction onto public roads must overcome
both ethical and technical challenges. To further understand the
ethical issues of introducing self-driving cars, we conducted two
moral judgement studies investigating potential differences in the
moral norms applied to human drivers and self-driving cars. In the
experiments, participants made judgements on a series of dilemma
situations involving human drivers or self-driving cars. We
manipulated which perspective situations were presented from in order
to ascertain the effect of perspective on moral judgements. Two main
findings were apparent from the results of the experiments. First,
human drivers and self-driving cars were largely judged
similarly. However, there was a stronger tendency to prefer
self-driving cars to act in ways to minimise harm, compared to human
drivers. Second, there was an indication that perspective
influences judgements in some situations. Specifically, when
considering situations from the perspective of a pedestrian, people
preferred actions that would endanger car occupants instead of
themselves. However, they did not show such a self-preservation
tendency when the alternative was to endanger other pedestrians to
save themselves. This effect was more prevalent for judgements on
human drivers than self-driving cars. Overall, the results extend and agree
with previous research, again contradicting existing ethical
guidelines for self-driving car decision making and highlighting the
difficulties with adapting public opinion to decision making

Keywords: Self-driving cars, moral judgement, Ethics, virtual reality, moral dilemmas, Autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence ethics

Received: 15 Jul 2019; Accepted: 10 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Kallioinen, Pershina, Zeiser, Nosrat Nezami, Stephan, Pipa and König. 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(s) 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: Mx. Noa Kallioinen, Institute of Cognitive Science, Osnabrück University, Osnabrück, Germany,