Ethics and the safety of autonomous systems

Catherine Menon, Robert David Alexander

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The ethical landscape surrounding the introduction of autonomous vehicles is complex, and there are real concerns over whether the operational safety of these systems can be adequately demonstrated. In this paper we focus on the ethical factors relevant to the design and safety justification of autonomous systems, considering issues such as risk transfer, ALARP considerations, capability vs risk trade-offs and emergent behaviours. We look beyond the "trolley problem” to consider how design decisions can reflect a wider ethical framework. We also look at the wider landscape around the emergence of autonomous systems, with a particular focus on the driving social factors which encourage early adoption of new technologies in this domain. We present some arguments for encouraging an explicit discussion of social and ethical factors within the safety framework for autonomous systems.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2018

Cite this