Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has given a keynote address to the United Nations congress at the AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva.
His speech focused on autonomous driving technology and how it can improve the lives of countless people. Despite the upbeat tone of the address, Stadler mentioned a touchy subject that still hasn’t been resolved: when can an autonomous vehicle kill or injure people?
Despite promises of a utopian future free of accidents, Stadler acknowledged some accidents are unavoidable even when autonomous technology is involved. This raises a number of tricky questions such as who would be liable for an accident and how should the car behave.
For example, imagine an autonomous vehicle is driving up a curvy mountainside. Suddenly, from around a bend, a handful of people on bicycles appear and the car cannot stop in time to avoid a collision. Does the car crash into the bicyclists or does it drive itself into a guard rail and possibly harm its passengers?
That’s a hard question to answer, Stadler said: “We need a discourse in society that looks at the enormous potential of piloted and autonomous driving in relation to the ethical and legal questions.” The executive went on to say the company takes “concerns of the public seriously” and “the automobile industry cannot answer the ethical and legal questions of piloted and autonomous driving alone.”
Despite having some issues that still need to be worked out, autonomous technology offers a lot of promise, as Stadler noted 90 percent of all accidents today are caused by human error and the use of autonomous systems can significantly reduce that figure.