Autonomous Cars Ethics

General Information

This brick is concerned with autonomous cars ethics. It is introduced with a lecture (ppt & mp4).


Gordana Dogic-Crnkovic:


The prerequisite is foundational knowledge of computing.

Learning Objective

The computing learning objective is to understand how requirements are defined so that the autonomous vehicles fulfill nonfunctional requirements of ethics and social sustainability.

The ethical learning objectives are to understand the role of technical and social/individual ethical issues of autonomous vehicles.

Technical requirements involve safety, security, privacy, transparency, algorithmic fairness, reliability, environmental sustainability, intelligent behavior control, trans-disciplinary-systemic approach, and quality.

Social/individual requirements include non-maleficence, stakeholder involvement, beneficence, responsibility and accountability, freedom and autonomy, social sustainability, social fairness, dignity and solidarity, social trust, justice, legislation, standards, norms, policies and guidelines.

The transverse learning objectives are connecting knowledge and insights from the technical and the social domain.

Possible Teaching and Assessment Approaches

Teaching Methods

Introductory lecture (ppt & video) – the students are introduced to published research on general digital ethics and specifically to ethics of autonomous vehicles (AVs)

After the lecture, possibly preceded by individual literature studies, students are involved in a discussion on the way technical and ethical issues have been addressed currently, especially the problems with “Trolley problem” type approaches. The discussion may involve role play.


The lecture is divided in modules and teacher can choose the modules topics to focus on.

Introduction: Ethics in Human-centric Design

  1. Ethics and morality
  2. Normative systems
  3. Classical ethical approaches
  4. Ethics for design
  5. Designer’s codes of Ethics

The Case of Autonomous Cars Ethics

  1. Development of AVs
  2. Trolley Problem’s unsolvability
  3. Real-world engineering ethics of AV’s
  4. Technical challenges to AV ethics
  5. Social challenges to AV ethics
  6. Ethical guidelines
  7. Further reading
Class Discussions/Debate

Class discussions in parallel sessions (small classrooms/breakout rooms) opposing facts vs opinions, legal vs ethical aspects. The students are asked to use what they have learned from reading and the lecture.

The debate concludes with the full class panel discussion.

Assessment Methods

Exam Questions

Based on the lecture material, and dependent on the form this brick is used, either as a part of a course on technical subject or of a course on digital ethics/computing ethics, open-ended questions can be formulated in order to test students understanding of the subject of autonomous cars ethics.

Research Article

Depending on the time available, part of the examination may be in the form of a written essay. Based on the literature, students choose a topic for a research article, approved by the teacher. It is necessary to have at least one iteration/consultation with the teacher/TA during the writing process. Articles can aim to be published, for students to further deepen their knowledge of the field.

Mini Conference

Class presents their research articles on a Mini conference that resembles real life research conferences with presentations, followed by discussion.

Further Reading

Peer Reviewed Papers


Codes of Ethics

Social media

You can find other interesting resources on Medium, Edge and YouTube.

Secondary Material


Class presents their research articles on a mini conference that resembles real life research conferences with presentations, followed by discussion. Did the brick meet the learning objectives? The class fills in evaluation form with both quantitative and qualitative data. The idea is to continuously improve lecture based on the feedback of the class.


Ethical Issues Classification
AI Ethics
Educational Classification
Computer Science, Software Engineering, Other
Domain Classification
Information Technology
Interdisciplinary Classification
The interdisciplinary aspects involve Computing Ethics/Digital Ethics, Artificial Intelligence, Human Computer Interface, Interaction Design, Software Engineering/Requirements Engineering, Social Aspects, and Sustainable Development.

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