Meaningful Human Control over automated driving systems

Themes: Social Impact, Robotics

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Summary of the project

The highly interdisciplinary research team, that comprises philosophers as well as engineers and psychologists, aim to develop a new theory of meaningful human control for automated driving systems. This notion of control is meant to aid the transition from human driving to automated driving, and promote safety and a clear attribution of responsibility in case of traffic accidents. Starting from this theory, the research team will formulate ethical and technical recommendations for the different stakeholders involved with the design, development and regulation of such autonomous systems.

The concept of meaningful human control – taken from the political debates over military robots – will form the starting point in thinking about the human role in automated driving systems. A notion of control over intelligent and autonomous machines should be able to clarify not only the role of the driver, who is gradually becoming a passenger, but that of designers, developers, drivers, policy-makers and the many road-users. Is it possible to deem some of those actors in control, and what does that mean? The project looks at different case studies such as dual-mode vehicles, remotely controlled pods, and truck platoons. The hypothesis is that more automation does not necessarily entail less human control, but it does require a new understanding of the human role and responsibility in the system.

What's next?

For the next step the researchers would like to see if it is possible to design a more robust autonomous system when this idea of meaningful human control is taken into account throughout the process. They would like to see how this would affect the design of the technology itself as well as the production of traffic regulations. Subsequently the researchers would like this concept of meaningful control to become mainstream in the debate on the ethics of AI and robotics more generally. 

Dr. Filippo Santoni de Sio


Prof. Dr. Marjan Hagenzieker


Prof. Dr. Bart van Arem

Dr. Simeon Calvert

Dr. Daniel Heikoop

Dr. Giulio Mecacci