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Engineers’ Roles and Responsibilities in Automated Vehicle Ethics: Exploring Engineering Codes of Ethics as a Guide to Addressing Issues in Socio-technical Systems


  • Allanté V. Whitmore Carnegie Mellon University
  • Constantine Samaras Carnegie Mellon University
  • H. Scott Matthews Carnegie Mellon University
  • Gabrielle Wong-Parodi Stanford University



Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, engineering ethics, professional responsibility, Socio Technical Systems, Driverless automated vehicles


The ethical implications for the engineering profession of the development and deployment of automated vehicles (AVs) can be explored by analyzing the implications of AVs across three major socio-technical systems—technology, transportation systems, and policy. Mapping the ethical canons of professional engineering societies to these domains provides a lens to investigating existing ethical issues and uncovering issues that still need attention. The codes of ethics for five engineering societies direct engineers to consider, identify, mitigate, and manage how their work affects the public. AV ethics literature in the technology domain has focused mainly on crashes, AV software capabilities, and hardware. This narrow focus signifies that engineers in the technology domain can do more to understand potential impacts beyond AV crash behavior. In the transportation systems domain, among the many ethical issues affected by AVs, how engineers design and deploy surface transportation infrastructure is an example of an ethical system-level problem yet to be addressed. Lastly, the policy domain has begun addressing primary effects like protecting the public from physical harm, but other ethical aspects remain unaddressed. All three domains could benefit from more holistic system-level assessments of the ethical implications of AVs. Engineers can use their professional engineering organization ethical canons to evaluate their contribution to managing ethical issues in these AV domains and improve how automated vehicles serve and safeguard the public.


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