by Tina Olivero

    How robots can rule roads

    An ethical framework developed by government, road users and other stakeholders must steer the introduction of new road rules for connected and automated vehicles (CAVs), international experts say.

    They warn that strictly forbidding CAVs of various kinds to break existing traffic rules may hamper road safety, contrary to what most people may claim. However, this requires close scrutiny so these high-tech vehicles can meet their potential to reduce road casualties.

    “While they promise to minimise road safety risk, CAVs like hybrid AI systems can still create collision risk due to technological and human-system interaction issues, the complexity of traffic, interaction with other road users and vulnerable road users,” says UK transport consultant Professor Nick Reed, from Reed Mobility, in a new paper in Ethics and Information Technology. “Ethical goal functions for CAVs would enable developers to optimise driving behaviours for safety under conditions of uncertainty while allowing for differentiation of products according to brand values.” 

    This part is important since it does not state that all vehicle brands should drive in exactly the same manner, which still allows brand differentiation, researchers say. Around the world, transport services are already putting CAVs, including driverless cars, on the road to deliver new services and freight options to improve road safety, alleviate congestion and increase drive comfort and transport system productivity. 

    A recent European Commission report recommended CAVs may have to break strict traffic rules to minimise road safety risk and to operate with appropriate transparency. Professor Reed, Flinders University Dean of Law Professor Tania Leiman, and other European experts in the field of autonomous vehicle safety the key recommendation from the EC (Bonnefon et al, 2020) highlights the need to legislate for CAVs in various traffic and environmental conditions to exercise the equivalent of human discretionary behaviours.

    This is complicated even further where there are variations in laws across different countries and regions, and cars are designed or built in one country but used in another, says Flinders Professor Leiman, from the College of Business, Government and Law. “An automated system that has ‘deduced’ driving behaviour from training examples cannot ‘explain’ or ‘justify’ its decisions or actions in a dangerous encounter,” she says. “This may be a problem if a manufacturer is required to explain specific behaviour in case of an incident or where civil or criminal liability is disputed.” 

    Speeding and mounting the curb to avoid collision are also evaluated as case studies in the research paper, with the idea that ethical goals should be established by extensive public consultation and deliberation to make them publicly acceptable and understood.

    The researchers say it will be critical that there is a standardised framework to enable vehicles travelling from one jurisdiction into the next to update their road rules to make driving standards safe, predictable, reasonable, uniform, comfortable and explainable – both for drivers, manufacturers and all road users.

    “We suggest responsibility for creating the framework of CAV ethical goal functions should sit with an appropriate international body, for example, the Global Forum for Road Traffic Safety of the UNECE, and relevant individual country agencies such as the Department of Transport,” says co-author on the paper Dr Leon Kester, senior research scientist at TNO, The Netherlands.   

    “Once an ethical goal function has been agreed and enacted by legislators, CAV systems could be designed in such a way that they optimise with the highest utility for road users within predefined boundaries without having a predefined set of infinite scenarios and precise definitions on what to do,” Dr Kester says. “Also, we have to organise a socio-technological feedback loop where things can be evaluated and changed if we feel it is no longer according to our societal goals.”

    Source(s) and Image(s): The article, Ethics of automated vehicles: breaking traffic rules for road safety (2021) by Nick Reed, Tania Leiman, Paula Palade, Marieke Martens and Leon Kester has been published inEthics and Information Technology DOI: 10.1007/s10676-021-09614-x. Reed Mobility

    Tina Olivero

    30 years ago, Tina Olivero looked into the future and saw an opportunity to make a difference for her province and people. That difference came in the form of the oil and gas sector. Six years before there was even a drop of oil brought to the shores of Newfoundland, she founded The Oil and Gas Magazine (THE OGM) from a back room in her home on Signal Hill Road, in St. John’s, Newfoundland. A single mother, no financing, no previous journalism or oil and gas experience, she forged ahead, with a creative vision and one heck of a heaping dose of sheer determination. With her pioneering spirit, Ms. Olivero developed a magazine that would educate, inspire, motivate and entertain oil and gas readers around the world — She prides herself in marketing and promoting our province and resources in unprecedented ways. The OGM is a magazine that focuses on our projects, our people, our opportunities and ultimately becomes the bridge to new energy outcomes and a sustainable new energy world. Now diversifying into the communications realms, a natural progression from the Magazine, The OGM now offers an entirely new division - Oil & Gas Media. Today, The Oil and Gas Magazine is a global phenomenon that operates not only in Newfoundland, but also in Calgary and is read by oil and gas enthusiasts in Norway, Aberdeen, across the US and as far reaching as Abu Dhabi, in the Middle East. Believing that Energy is everyone’s business, Ms. Olivero has combined energy + culture to embrace the worlds commitment to a balance of work and home life as well as fostering a foundation for health and well being. In this era of growth and development business and lifestyle are an eloquent mix, there is no beginning or end. Partnering with over 90 oil and gas exhibitions and conferences around the world, Ms. Olivero's role as a Global Visionary is to embrace communication in a way that fosters oil and gas business and industry growth in new and creative ways.

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