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Ethics in Technology: Autonomous Vehicle Programming

Technology has become an active aspect of individuals’ daily lives and operations. Various advancements, such as autonomous vehicle programming in the motor vehicle industries, have become highly prevalent.  Autonomous vehicle programming entails the design of a vehicle with the capability to sense its surrounding environment and operates without any human involvement. Autonomous vehicles are commonly referred to as self-driving cars that have been developed by companies such as Google, Tesla, Uber, and other technology companies. The vehicles have been enabled with technological aspects such as a front camera, ultrasonic, lidar, aerial, and computer software. Autonomous vehicles have been a topic of discussion with various parties supporting and opposing vehicle programming. A major significance of advanced technology includes increased accessibility, efficiency, safety, and affordable transport. Although the technology is highly efficient, major ethical concerns are surrounding the autonomous vehicle programming idea.

Ethical Concerns of Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles have increased the risks of accidents, thus compromising the safety of passengers and other road users.  The self-driving cars are programmed to follow specific commands, which does not apply to the roads due to unpredictable occurrences on the roads. Ethical concerns have risen to compare the incidents that could arise if the program results in accidents that may result in the death of a large number of people versus what results from the death of self-driving occupants (Bonnefon, Shariff, & Rahwan, 2016). The inability of the cars to make decisions on their own has been termed as the “trolley problem.” An example is an accident that occurred in 2016 of a self-driving car owned by Google colliding with a public transit bus. Google subjected this to its computer software, which made an incorrect assumption on which direction the bus was heading. The company sighted significant issues with the system’s programming.

The artificial intelligence of autonomous vehicles has been highly criticized due to the vehicles’ inability to think critically or make moral decisions as compared to human drivers. In comparison to humans, self-driving cars lack the ability to make spontaneous decisions leading to accidents (Cunningham & Regan, 2015). The car developers have not yet programmed spontaneous commands in the cars since accidents and situations on the roads are unpredictable. Further, the debate on ethics and morals surrounding the autonomous vehicles has directed queries to the developers as to who takes responsibility when the self -driving vehicles cause accidents. Countries such as Germany have established legislative measures that offer guidelines on self-driving cars but are being faced with issues of accountability as robots cannot be held accountable.

The technology utilized in autonomous vehicles increases security and privacy risks for users. The vehicles utilize the information offered by the users for commands and controls purposes. Consequently, the information could be exposed to hacking with hackers obtaining locations of the users as well as tracking their movement (Bagloee, Tavana, Asadi & Oliver, 2016). The hackers may use the information to harm, hijack the users, or manipulate them in various ways. Also, the systems may be hacked and configured to offer wrong commands leading to accidents and malfunctioning of self-driving cars. Self-driving vehicles are relatively affordable, leading to social equity concerns among other road users. The affordability of the vehicles will reduce the affordability of other mobility options such as transit services, walking, and cycling.


To sum up, self-driving vehicles are increasing traffic problems on the roads due to their affordability and efficiency. The vehicles have increased congestion on major roads, thus delaying road users and inconveniencing them. Other issues that have emerged are pollution and the sprawling of related costs such as fuel prices and parking spaces. Also, autonomous vehicles are increasing the rate of unemployment among drivers forcing them to engage in crimes to feed for themselves. Ethical concerns and debates over the autonomous vehicles are on the rise as developers have not yet established programs that have spontaneous and judgmental abilities. Most consumers are reluctant to utilize the cars until the ethical concerns are resolved.




Bagloee, S. A., Tavana, M., Asadi, M., & Oliver, T. (2016). Autonomous vehicles: challenges, opportunities, and future implications for transportation policies. Journal of modern transportation24(4), 284-303.

Bonnefon, J. F., Shariff, A., & Rahwan, I. (2016). The social dilemma of autonomous vehicles. Science352(6293), 1573-1576.

Cunningham, M., & Regan, M. A. (2015, October). Autonomous vehicles: human factors issues and future research. In Proceedings of the 2015 Australasian Road safety conference (Vol. 14).

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