Legal Necessity, Pareto Efficiency & Justified Killing in Autonomous Vehicle Collisions

Geoff Keeling*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
295 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Suppose a driverless car encounters a scenario where (i) harm to at least one person is unavoidable and (ii) a choice about how to distribute harms between different persons is required. How should the driverless car be programmed to behave in this situation? I call this the moral design problem. Santoni de Sio (Ethical Theory Moral Pract 20:411–429, 2017) defends a legal-philosophical approach to this problem, which aims to bring us to a consensus on the moral design problem despite our disagreements about which moral principles provide the correct account of justified harm. He then articulates an answer to the moral design problem based on the legal doctrine of necessity. In this paper, I argue that Santoni de Sio’s answer to the moral design problem does not achieve the aim of the legal-philosophical approach. This is because his answer relies on moral principles which, at least, utilitarians have reason to reject. I then articulate an alternative reading of the doctrine of necessity, and construct a partial answer to the moral design problem based on this. I argue that utilitarians, contractualists and deontologists can agree on this partial answer, even if they disagree about which moral principles offer the correct account of justified harm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-427
Number of pages15
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Volume21
Issue number2
Early online date25 Apr 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Keywords

  • robot ethics
  • autonomous vehicles
  • artificial intelligence
  • ethics
  • ethics of technology
  • ethics of harm
  • criminal law
  • legal necessity
  • philosophy

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