An Alternate Account on the Ethical Implications of Autonomous Vehicles

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Source of Publication

2021 17th International Conference on Intelligent Environments, IE 2021 - Proceedings

Publication Date



Given the widespread popularity of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs), researchers have been exploring the ethical implications of AVs. Researchers believe that empirical experiments can provide insights into human characterization of ethically sound machine behavior. Previous research indicates that humans generally endorse utilitarian AVs, however, this paper explores an alternative account on the discourse of ethical decision-making in AVs. We refrain from favoring consequentialism or non-consequential ethical theories, and argue that human moral decision-making is pragmatic, or in other words, ethically and rationally bounded. We hold the perspective that our moral preferences shift based on various externalities and biases. To further this concept, we conduct two Amazon Mechanical Turk studies to investigate factors, such as, the 'degree of harm', and 'level of affection', which influence people's moral decision-making. Our experimental findings seem to suggest that human moral judgements cannot be wholly deontological or utilitarian. We discovered that as the degree of harm decreased, people became less utilitarian (more deontological), and as the level of affection increased, people became less utilitarian (more deontological). These findings offer evidence on the ethical variations in human decision-making processes and refutes the view that aim to advocate application of a specific moral framework based on empirical evidence. The findings also offer useful insights for policymakers to explore the overall public perception on the ethical implications of AV.






Computer Sciences


Autonomous vehicles, ethics of artificial intelligence, intelligent environment user decision-making, trolley problem

Scopus ID


Indexed in Scopus


Open Access