Moral and Social Ramifications of Autonomous Vehicles

Veljko Dubljević, Sean Douglas, Jovan Milojevich, Nirav Ajmeri, William A. Bauer, George F. List, Munindar P. Singh

Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) raise important social and ethical concerns, especially about accountability, dignity, and justice. We focus on the specific concerns arising from how AV technology will affect the lives and livelihoods of professional and semi-professional drivers. Whereas previous studies of such concerns have focused on the opinions of experts, we seek to understand these ethical and societal challenges from the perspectives of the drivers themselves. To this end, we adopted a qualitative research methodology based on semi-structured interviews. This is an established social science methodology that helps understand the core concerns of stakeholders in depth by avoiding the biases of superficial methods such as surveys. We find that whereas drivers agree with the experts that AVs will significantly impact transportation systems, they are apprehensive about the prospects for their livelihoods and dismiss the suggestions that driving jobs are unsatisfying and their profession does not merit protection. By showing how drivers differ from the experts, our study has ramifications beyond AVs to AI and other advanced technologies. Our findings suggest that qualitative research applied to the relevant, especially disempowered, stakeholders is essential to ensuring that new technologies are introduced ethically.

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