The National Digital Ethics Committee gives its opinion on autonomous vehicles

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The National Digital Ethics Committee gives its opinion on autonomous vehicles

In a letter written on July 15, 2019, the former prime minister, Edouard Philippe, asked the president of the National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE) to set up an approach regarding ethical issues in several scientific fields, including artificial intelligence. On May 20, the National Pilot Committee on Digital Ethics (CNPEN) has just issued its opinion on autonomous vehicles as part of this program. Several points were highlighted, such as the need for regulation or the motivations for acquiring this type of system.

A CNPEN working group to give an opinion on the ethics of autonomous vehicles

Within the framework of this pilot approach to ethical issues related to science, technology, digital uses and innovations, but also to AI, the Prime Minister wished to focus on autonomous vehicles. This work was done in parallel with the elaboration of a national strategy for the development of road mobility entrusted to Anne-Marie Idrac, former Secretary of State for Transport between 1995 and 1997.

It was in December 2019 that a CNPEN working group was set up on the subject. Here are the members:

  • Rapporteurs: Raja Chatila and Catherine Tessier
  • Members of the working group: Alexei Grinbaum, Claire Levallois-Barth, Caroline Martin and Jérôme Perrin
  • Invited members: Guillaume Travers and Jérémy Diez – DGITM, Ministry of Ecological Transition and Julien Chiaroni, Director of the Grand Défi “Securing, certifying and making artificial intelligence reliable” – General Secretariat for Investment
  • Other contributors: Karine Dognin-Sauze and Valéria Faure-Muntian

CNPEN’s opinion on the ethical issues of the autonomous vehicle

In a 24-page report, the CNPEN working group proposed its opinion on the ethical issues of the autonomous vehicle. In its document, CNPEN highlights the issues related to:

  • The terminology used for the vehicle and the functions related to its automation.
  • Road safety and operational safety: conducting realistic simulations and large-scale experiments in different types of environments to assess the impact of these vehicles, creating rigorous regulations for verification, validation and approval.
  • Human control of the vehicle: ensure the possibility of taking control of the vehicle, provide means of alert and communication between the user and the remote operator, create safety devices.
  • Personal freedoms: protection of personal data, anonymization of data, ensuring that the automated vehicle is only locked and moved if the user so wishes.
  • Social and environmental impacts: measuring the societal, environmental and employment impact of a massive deployment or not of autonomous vehicles, subjecting these vehicles to environmental certification, setting up citizen consultations.

The motivations invoked for the implementation of autonomous vehicles or automated driving functions were also mentioned: road safety issues, social benefits, environmental impact and ecology or economic motives. No doubt that the government will take this issue into account when setting up their future strategies for autonomous vehicles.

Translated from Le Comité national pilote d’éthique du numérique donne son avis sur les véhicules autonomes

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