Technology has been employed in almost all aspects of life ranging from transport, communication, security systems, accounting and governance, customer service relationship, hospital and pharmaceutical industries, research and development, agriculture, education, banking and many more (Olingo, 2009). It is of no doubt that use of technology is unmeasurable creating many jobs. In this case, technology has been applied in transportation to develop self-driven cars. Many companies including Audi, Hyundai, Google and BMW have made major advancement in developing cars to tap market for self-driven cars (Kim & Shin, 2014). There are huge benefits for these cars including reducing traffic-related accidents, reduce traffic jams, less fuel consumption, enhance mobility of disabled individuals and reduction in carbon dioxide emission (Fagnant & Kockelman, 2014).
Though it might soon be possible to be driven without touching steering wheel, there are several ethical considerations particularly safety requirements of these cars. Who will take responsibility incase an accident occur? Is it the owner, car occupants, manufacturer, software developer or the insurer? There are many safety issue like ability to detect and adapt to natural disasters like flood, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that may disrupt transport. Furthermore, threats like hacking, elimination of jobs for drivers, failure of technology and difficulty of cars to adapt to different transportation laws across countries may limit success of this technology. This paper present ethical consideration of releasing self-driven cars before modelling accidents.
The decision of electric car company to release the cars before passing road authority test creates a dilemma for John, an AI consult who developed AI component of the cars. Is it professionally accepted to release products such as electric cars before ascertaining its safety? One of the dilemma associated with that electric car is, does the car make a decision to trash into tree rather than killing someone crossing road without looking. Furthermore, the users would like to know if the car will sacrifice one occupant in the car rather than killing majority of people on the road and the decision that could be made by the car in case of failure of breaks. The dilemma confronting AI consultant is the overall vehicle safety (Litman, 2014). The consultant has responsibility of ensuring that the car is safe for users and must offer relevant information to buyers particularly concerning behavior of the car in catastrophic situation like decision of the car between the life and death of for the pedestrians and passengers. In this case, such scenarios have not been taken care of. Furthermore, it has not been established whether the car drives better than humans. Furthermore, though technology cannot be perfect, it will be difficult for the AI consultant to determine the extent to which the technology can be regarded as safe enough to be deployed.
The professionals like John should have strong moral purpose and are expected to act in a certain way that benefits various stakeholders. These self-driven cars have huge potential of improving lives of many particularly the disabled. The disabled individuals have had for long time suffered financially or emotionally on how to do normal routine jobs. For instance, one may need to hire a driver thus increasing cost. Based on teleological theory of ethics, one would judge an action based on the consequences. Egoism theory defines what is right or wrong by focusing on consequences of the action (Woiceshyn, 2011). John as an egoist is expected to make decision that he believes will serve self-interest and should therefore not accept release of cars to the market since he faces severe consequence in case the cars harm the users.
However, utilitarianism approach enables John to defend himself if he feels that the users of such cars would have a greater good. Utilitarianism theory advocates for making ethical decision whose actions maximises good to greater number of people (Bartels & Pizarro, 2011). AI consultant can consider the release of car ethical if he feels benefits outweigh cost that is measured in social, emotional, human or economic terms. However, based on deontology theory, the car consumers have equal right as to the pedestrians and no one should be used as means to an end (Trevino & Nelson, 2010). The company should not make profit at expense of consumers and thus cars should not be released for fear of losing customers to competitors.
The AI consultant has a duty of ensuring that the product is safe and must take certain precaution to minimize risks that may harm consumers. The general principles governing production of goods and services requires that safety must be considered right from the design and manufacture of product (Bouwmeester et al., 2009). Many countries recognize that everyone in the supply chain including product designer, retailer and consumer have responsibility for product safety. With this regard, AI consultant must ensure that the cars are safe before release to the market. John therefore has to prohibit the company from selling cars to the consumers before passing road safety test.
The self-driven cars may injure consumers or develop safety issues and AI consultants will have to face legal action. John has responsibility of protecting the car company from potential harm of damaging publicity due to failure of technology. For this reason, John has to seek legal advice in relation to compliance of safety issue. In Australia there are various laws regulating product safety particular the ICT related. The government in some cases can ban production and use of a particular product it feels that it may cause harm to the public (Clarke & Moses, 2014). To safeguard car company from fines against releasing product that does not comply with mandatory standards, AI consultant needs to advice CEO and IT managers to stop release of product before extensive test for safety.
The moral theory of ethics of care implies that there is greater will of supporting and protecting human life (Niebuhr, 2013). The theory pushes for manufactures to establish strong relationship with consumers by promoting well-being of everyone. Network of social relationship can be established by ensuring that the car manufacture ensure that it meet its own needs and that of consumers. With this regard, AI consultant as caring person has to ensure that mutual benefits for manufacturer and consumer is achieved by stopping release of car until it meets required safety measures for consumers. In this way, the manufacturer is protected against legal action, financial losses and negative publicity due to failure of self-driven cars to meet safety standards to users.
This code advocates for organizations and individuals to act according to public interest. All actions must consider public interest and in a case where there is conflict between own/self-interest and public interest then actions should be made that favors public interest (McDermid, 2008). In order to preserve interest of consumers, the car manufacturer must not release self-driven car until it passes safety issues. The important stakeholders for car company are the shareholders and consumers, shareholders would like to maximize profit from the new market niche while consumers need safe products. To safeguard against legal actions, John and management of company have to ensure that public interest are considered.
The is need to ensure that technology does not harm the society. self-driven cars can enhance quality of life after passing models for accidents. Both consultant and the car company has to promote safety of car users in order to maximize benefits to the society.
Integrity is the cornerstone of any profession. In order to build trust with various stakeholders, AI should provide all necessary information to car manufacture particularly safety issues of releasing cars to market before meeting ICT standards. CEO and ICT manager are seen not distinguishing their personal opinions from professional advice by assuming that risks associated with self-driven car are minimal and can be handled by car better than humans.
The CEO and managers are failing to recognize that they do not have expertise to qualify whether the cars are safe or have higher risk to consumers. Competence allows management of car manufacturer to act according to standards and legislation governing ICT industry and safety of consumers.
The players in self-driven cars that is AI consultant and car company management has act in a way that improve public confidence in ICT industry. By maintaining professional standard, the company is able to enhance industry’s image by releasing quality product with minimal risk of harming consumers.
Based on ethical consideration, AI consultant has acted professionally by warning CEO and ICT mangers against releasing product before testing. John has developed AIC components that has allowed car to be efficient. Furthermore, John has advised that cars need to be modeled for certain situation to confirm car response so as to inform the public. The company acting to release cars means John can defend himself in case of legal action as a result of injury to the consumers.
This case present exciting dilemma for ICT professionals. AI consultant can solve ethical dilemma by adhering to professional code of conduct. Both AI consultant and car company management has responsibility of taking care of public interest by ensuring that self-driven cars are safe for the consumers. To solve any doubt, it is better to be late in releasing car and ensure that they are safe to public. Adhering to standards and laws governing ICT industry eliminates ethical AI consultant. AI consultant need to put into consideration public interest, strive to improve quality of life of users and safeguard image of ICT industry so as to solve ethical dilemma.
Bartels, D. M., & Pizarro, D. A. (2011). The mismeasure of morals: Antisocial personality traits predict utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas. Cognition, 121(1), 154-161.
Bouwmeester, H., Dekkers, S., Noordam, M. Y., Hagens, W. I., Bulder, A. S., De Heer, C., & Sips, A. J. (2009). Review of health safety aspects of nanotechnologies in food production. Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology, 53(1), 52-62.
Clarke, R., & Moses, L. B. (2014). The regulation of civilian drones' impacts on public safety. Computer Law & Security Review, 30(3), 263-285.
Fagnant, D. J., & Kockelman, K. (2014). Preparing a nation for autonomous vehicles: 1 opportunities, barriers and policy recommendations for 2 capitalizing on self-driven vehicles 3. Transportation Research Board.
Kim, J., & Shin, H. (2014). Algorithm & SoC design for automotive vision systems. Springer.
Litman, T. (2014). Autonomous vehicle implementation predictions. Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 28.
McDermid, D. (2008). Ethics in ICT: an Australian perspective. Pearson Higher Education AU.
Niebuhr, R. (2013). Moral man and immoral society: A study in ethics and politics. Westminster John Knox Press.
Olingo, L. L. C. (2009). Adam Mikeal Director of Information Technology at the College of Architecture & Adjunct Prof.—Texas A&M University. Journal of Digital Information.
Trevino, L. K., & Nelson, K. A. (2010). Managing business ethics. John Wiley & Sons.
Woiceshyn, J. (2011). A model for ethical decision making in business: Reasoning, intuition, and rational moral principles. Journal of business ethics, 104(3), 311-323.
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