In early 2016 a futuristic driver-less fleet of trucks drove from Sweden to the Netherlands across Europe, heralding a new dawn in which trucks will run autonomously, driven by computers and satellite routing technology and replacing human drivers. It is no doubt exciting that after just over a century of drivers requiring driving licenses and training to drive trucks; soon computers will be doing the driving; able to operate for 24 hours, not requiring any sleep or rest, and not suffering any form of fatigue. For the business community, it will mean faster transport of goods, reduced costs, and possibly, enhanced transport efficiency (mapping technologies deciding the shortest and least congested routes). While the technology is exciting, the prospects for Australia could be devastating; lost jobs for drivers, lost side businesses associated with driving (motels, pump stations), loss of rights for workers, and possible increases in dangers (fatalities) as technology is infallible. The Australian economy largely depends on her $ 200 billion transport business, on which the economy is highly dependent. This dependency is confirmed by the fact that growth in the country’s GDP always closely mirrors the growth of the transport sector (Reynolds, 2016). This paper discusses this idea in the setting of various ethical theories and draws conclusions at the end.
The normative ethical theory of utilitarianism, posits that the perception between what is wrong and what is right depends entirely on the repercussion of choosing one policy/ action over other alternate ones (Shafer-Landau, 2013). Bentham’s utility principle recognizes the fundamental role that pleasure and pain plays in human life; an action is validated or invalidated based on the discomfort or delight it brings about. Evil is equates with pain while good is equated with pleasure; the principle asserts that pleasure and pain can be quantitatively ,measured (Parekh, 2006). As such, this theory goes beyond the scope of an individual’s interest and takes cognizance of other people’s interests. Based on this theory, the author in the article is right; while autonomous self-driving vehicles are an exciting new technology with some benefits, including increased speed and efficiency in transport, it has far bigger ramifications for the Australian society and economy. Jobs will be lost, lifetime benefits and rights, and other businesses that rely on trucking (by humans) such as eateries, pump stations, and hotels will die down, affecting possibly millions and adversely affecting the entire Australian economy. In this context, the idea of driver-less cars in Australia is bad and a no-no.
Deontology is a concept in normative ethics that bases its judgment of actions based on rules; this theory is a duty/ rule based form of ethics since people are bound to their duty by rules. This theory argues that the single feature that confers moral worth to an action is not the outcome that the action achieves but the motive behind that action (Darwall, 2007). The right thing must always be done, even if the outcomes are bad, as it is a duty to do the right thing. Knowing what is right requires rules to be put in place (Tavani, 2016); for instance, in the driver-less car case, is it wrong to stop the utilization of self-driving cars on account that its outcome will render millions jobless to introduce new and exciting technologies that lower the costs of doing business? Based on the case and the Deontology theory; it is wrong not to enjoy the benefits of such an exciting technology such as high efficiencies, speed, and lower operating costs because such actions will render drivers, their families and other businesses that depend on the transport ecosystem jobless and with a bleak future for the purposes of enjoying higher efficiencies and reduced costs as well as having exciting new technology. Based on this, the driverless trucks should be introduced.
The virtue theory of ethics posits that the central element in ethical thinking is the individual’s character, instead of the rules regarding the actions themselves or the repercussions of such actions (Beycioglu, 2013). The ethical theory of virtue holds that the right goal of human life is happiness and wellbeing and that these goals can be achieved over a lifetime by people practicing acts of virtue in their everyday activities, subject to exercising practical wisdom to resolve any dilemmas or problems that may arise (Poel & Royakkers, 2011). Local and foreign automakers and/ or their local billionaire backers that do not see the sense of abrogating such an exciting technology and its promising benefits in order to keep drivers employed will front the autonomous/ self-driving cars. The virtue theory requires that self-sacrifice and activities that carry a personal cost be should be objected to, and instead, the interests of the family/ community be given greater consideration. With this in mind, the interests of the Australian drivers and other sub sectors that depend on them, starting from their families to roadside motels and pump stations should be given precedence over technology that has its outlined benefits.
This is an econometrics theory that evaluates how legal agreements are developed and how decisions are made by different parties to create a contract having certain specific terms in the vent some uncertain conditions are realized. The theory investigates how entities make decisions for contracts when there is information imbalance. In the self-driving cars case, the contract theory is analyzed in the setting of adverse selection and moral hazard (Smith, 2007). When two parties have different information (information asymmetry), so that those with better information selectively vouch for a specific product, at the cost of the party with less information who is worried an unfair engagement. Moral hazard occurs when a party that is insured takes more risks because the costs of the risks are borne by another party (Green, Miozzo & Dewick, 2005). In this context, the self-driving cars developers and billionaire investors (and businessmen) in Australia and from overseas take more risks by launching self-driving transport, knowing that the costs of lost jobs and attendant businesses will be borne by other parties covering the risk; that is the general public, truck drivers, and roadside business owners. In this aspect, it is still unethical and morally wrong for the self-driving cars proponents such as its makers, investors, and local agents to introduce the cars that pose risks in two ways; they are machines that cannot be perfect and can result in fatalities. Further, drivers will lose jobs and the economy will be affected; but investors in the self-driving cars, their agents, and the billionaires stakeholders will not be affected by these. Consequently, the proposition of self-driving cars based on the contract theory is a moral hazard for Australians as they (drivers and employees and owners of attendant businesses and the trucks) will bear the ultimate cost of the autonomous, self-driving vehicles, while proponents of the self-driving vehicles will only make more profit and enhance efficiency.
In conclusion, the idea of autonomous cars in Australia will have adverse consequences to the Australian drivers, attendant businesses, their families, and the general economy due to loss of jobs, as the utilitarianism theory alludes to. Rules should determine actions, and not the outcomes of those actions; the motive behind actions is what confers an action moral worth and not the outcome, based on the deontology theory so that the benefits of the self-driving cars must be given greater weight than the outcomes of that action, such as lost jobs. The virtue theory also states that the goal of human life is happiness; so the introduction of the autonomous cars is a terrible because many people will lose jobs, a situation that will significantly reduce their ‘happiness’. So the autonomous cars are a bad idea. Further, those with knowledge are likely to take increasingly higher risks because they do not bear the cost of their consequences, in which case it becomes a moral hazard. To state the authors’ opinion, self-driving cars issues will be tackled when a middle ground is obtained; however, the ethical dimensions show it is a bad idea.
Beycioglu, K. (2013). Ethical technology use, policy, and reactions in educational settings.
Hershey PA: Information Science Reference IGI.
Darwall, S. (2007). Deontology. Malden, Mass: Blackwel.
Green, K., Miozzo, M., & Dewick, P. (2005). Technology, knowledge and the firm: Implications for strategy and industrial change. Cheltenham: Elgar.
Parekh, B. (2006). Jeremy Bentham: Critical assessments. London: Routledge.
Poel, I. ., & Royakkers, L. M. M. (2011). Ethics, Technology, and Engineering: An Introduction.
Malden, Mass: Wiley-Blackwell.
Reynolds, E. (2016). The jobs killer is coming. NewsComAu. Retrieved 12 September 2017,
from https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/travel/the-jobs-killer-is-coming-how-driverless-trucks-could-change-australia/news story/4f5b8a42b0452703d62e00f3e7644d7b
Shafer-Landau, R. (2013). Ethical theory: An anthology. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley- Blackwell.
Smith, S. A. (2007). Contract theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Tavani, H. T. (2016). Ethics and technology: Controversies, questions, and strategies for ethical computing. Hoboken, NJ : John Wiley & Sons, Inc.