Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) are attracting the interest of a growing number of researchers and practitioners, involved in addressing their broader implications on society. Within this context, Federico Costantini from the University of Udine organised on 6 March 2019 the International Workshop “Automated and Autonomous Vehicles: Technological Tests, Policy Challenges, Ethical and Legal Concerns”. The event was organized as part of the activities of the COST Action WISE-ACT, exploring the wider implications of CAVs. The event was held under the patronage, among other institutions, of proESOF2020, a platform supporting networking, projects and events towards the ESOF 2020, which will take place in Trieste (Italy).
The workshop was structured in two main parts: the first one was chaired by Prof. Cecilia Severoni (Department of Law, Univ. of Udine) and dealt with CAVs’ technological tests and policy challenges. The second part was moderated by Federico Costantini and focused on the ethical and legal concerns. A variety of academic and non-academic speakers involved in the development of AVs and mobility innovations contributed to provide inspiring and complementary views on the topic. Speakers included several WISE-ACT participants: Giuseppe Lugano from the ERAdiate team in Slovakia, Wolfram Klar from AustriaTech (Austria), Jaka Sodnik from the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Ebru Dogan from Institut Vedecom (France).
The presentation by Dr. Giuseppe Lugano started from an analysis of the ongoing projects and AV tests, taking the case of the Czech Republic. Despite the increasing awareness on AV ethical and social aspects, AV tests seem to still focus mainly on technological aspects (e.g. interoperability, reliability, security and safety). The next AV tests should incorporate also ethical and social aspects to assess the suitability of the proposal solutions from a wider perspective. Several international initiatives were presented as positive developments in the field: in addition to the WISE-ACT COST Action, the European AI Alliance, the Ethics Task-Force and the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems were mentioned.
The presentations and the debate that followed highlighted the complexity of realising the benefits associated with the deployment of CAVs, while alleviating their potential negative impacts in scenarios of ‘data-driven governance’ and ‘algorithmic regulation’. Key to achieve this ambitious objective is to find the right balance in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for respecting or even strengthening human values including ethics, social norms, rights law, etc. This implies a close interdisciplinary collaboration between experts in computer science, statistics and machine learning and humanists and social scientists.
An additional layer of complexity is represented by the need of engaging a large variety of stakeholders in CAVs deployment. The set of ethical and legal principles (embedded in AI) should guide the development of an appropriate general policy framework, possibly internationally valid. This framework should also be flexible enough to allow customising and adapting solutions to the local contexts. These measures should envisage the parallel activity of informing and engaging citizens in the process – thus not regarding them only as customers or ‘end users’, but as key actors.