Breakout 25: Ethical and Social Implications

Breakout 25: Ethical and Social Implications

Wednesday, July 12, 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM
Continental 9


  • Noah Goodall, Virginia Transportation Research Council
  • Norio Komoda, Sakura Associates LLC
  • Yuri Gawdiak, NASA
  • Filippo Santoni de Sio, TU Delft
  • Brant Horio, LMI

This breakout will examine the ethical and social challenges of vehicle automation beyond the legal, policy, and technical issues discussed in other sessions. Experts will discuss the ethics behind routine driving decisions, industry responses to the ethics requirement in NHTSA’s guidelines, and approaches to similar ethics challenges in other fields.


Moderator – Noah Goodall, Virginia Transportation Research Council

1:30 PM – 2:00 PM Ethics of Routine Driving

While some automated vehicle crashes have clear moral implications, these crashes may be quite rare. More common but less obvious are the ethics of routine driving, where small decisions may have ethical implications when scaled over trillions of miles. An automated vehicle's decision to provide more space when passing a cyclist, for example, will slightly increase the risk of colliding with oncoming traffic. Examples of these situations, and ways to address them, will be explored.


  • Selina Pan, Ford Motor Company
  • Erik Stayton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2:00 PM – 2:30 PM Responding to NHTSA’s Guidelines on Ethical Compliance

In September 2016, the National Highway Safety Administration released their "Federal Automated Vehicle Policy." As part of this policy, NHTSA requested that automated vehicle developers provide reports describing how they plan to address "ethical considerations," especially in scenarios where the goals of safety, mobility, and legality come into conflict. This panel will discuss how automated vehicle developers plan to respond to NHTSA's request.


  • Stephen Zoepf, Stanford University
  • TBD

2:30 PM – 3:00 PM Ethical Challenges in Related Fields

This panel will consider how similar ethical challenges have been handled in other fields. If driving can be described as a series of decisions about how to distribute crash risks, then experts from industries that distribute risks and ration benefits may have important lessons to share.


  • Jason Millar, Stanford University (invited)
  • Melissa Cefkin, Nissan Research Center Silicon Valley (invited)

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