Who controls the car?

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentationScientific


Abstract: One of the early legal issues with autonomous vehicles (such as cars) was that they did not seem to have a driver while road traffic rules (art 8 Vienna convention for instance) are based on a human driving/controlling the vehicle. That hurdle seems out of the way now with legislation (in the making) to mitigate this issue. But this control question is only one of the many in autonomous vehicles once we dig a little deeper into what a vehicle has to do in getting from A to B. Flexible human control has to be supplanted with partially hard encoded norms instructing the vehicle what to do. Different levels of norm-setting can be distinguished and as such these vehicles exhibit a version of multi-level governance with norms coming from a plethora of 'regulators'.
The various levels and types of norms embedded in autonomous vehicles raise all sorts of legal, regulatory and ethical questions. In this presentation, I will outline some of the types of norms in autonomous vehicles, ranging from rules embedded in algorithms to make the various parts of a car operating in the intended way, through traffic rules, to rules coping with 'trolley problem' situations, car personality rules, to potential law enforcement (e.g. lawful interception) rules and finally rules implemented by car owners themselves. Questions we will address are who sets the norms, are they ethical, what do they do to our morality, how transparent are they and who is accountable for the norms and their effects? The conclusion of the presentation could be that, once the technical hurdles are taken and vehicles safely take the road, it is far from clear how they are controlled.
Period17 Nov 2020
Event titleNorm-setters in the contemporary world: Annual Workshop - DTU REMS II
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • AI
  • regulation
  • techno-regulation
  • self-driving vehicles
  • robots
  • governance
  • trust
  • accoutnability
  • ethics