The Future of Transportation: Ethical, Legal, Social and Economic Impacts of Self-driving Vehicles in the Year 2025

Science and Engineering Ethics 26 (3):1185-1208 (2020)
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Self-driving vehicles offer great potential to improve efficiency on roads, reduce traffic accidents, increase productivity, and minimise our environmental impact in the process. However, they have also seen resistance from different groups claiming that they are unsafe, pose a risk of being hacked, will threaten jobs, and increase environmental pollution from increased driving as a result of their convenience. In order to reap the benefits of SDVs, while avoiding some of the many pitfalls, it is important to effectively determine what challenges we will face in the future and what steps need to be taken now to avoid them. The approach taken in this paper is the construction of a likely future, through the process of a policy scenario methodology, if we continue certain trajectories over the coming years. The purpose of this is to articulate issues we currently face and the construction of a foresight analysis of how these may develop in the next 6 years. It will highlight many of the key facilitators and inhibitors behind this change and the societal impacts caused as a result. This paper will synthesise the wide range of ethical, legal, social and economic impacts that may result from SDV use and implementation by 2025, such as issues of autonomy, privacy, liability, security, data protection, and safety. It will conclude with providing steps that we need to take to avoid these pitfalls, while ensuring we reap the benefits that SDVs bring.



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Mark Ryan
Wageningen University and Research