Steps Towards Real-world Ethics for Self-driving Cars: Beyond the Trolley Problem
Book chapter, 2021

Research on self-driving cars is transdisciplinary and its different aspects have attracted interest in general public debates as well as among specialists. To this day, ethical discourses are dominated by the Trolley Problem, a hypothetical ethical dilemma that is by construction unsolvable. It obfuscates much bigger real-world ethical challenges in the design, development, and operation of self-driving cars. We propose a systematic approach that connects processes, components, systems, and stakeholders to analyze the real-world ethical challenges for the ecology of socio-technological system of self-driving cars. We take a closer look at the regulative instruments, standards, design, and implementations of components, systems, and services and we present practical social and ethical challenges that must be met and that imply novel expectations for engineering in car industry.


Ethical Principles

Smart Cars

Future Transportation

Ethical Guidelines


Autonomous Driving

Self-Driving Cars

Artificial Intelligence



Tobias Holstein

University of Applied Sciences

Gordana Dodig Crnkovic

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Interaction design

Patrizio Pelliccione

University of Gothenburg

Machine Law, Ethics, and Morality in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

1799848949 (ISBN)

Areas of Advance

Information and Communication Technology

Subject Categories


Human Aspects of ICT

Embedded Systems

Driving Forces

Sustainable development


Basic sciences



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