Autonomous Driving and Public Reason: a Rawlsian Approach

Philosophy and Technology 34 (4):1475-1499 (2021)
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In this paper, we argue that solutions to normative challenges associated with autonomous driving, such as real-world trolley cases or distributions of risk in mundane driving situations, face the problem of reasonable pluralism: Reasonable pluralism refers to the fact that there exists a plurality of reasonable yet incompatible comprehensive moral doctrines within liberal democracies. The corresponding problem is that a politically acceptable solution cannot refer to only one of these comprehensive doctrines. Yet a politically adequate solution to the normative challenges of autonomous driving need not come at the expense of an ethical solution, if it is based on moral beliefs that are (1) shared in an overlapping consensus and (2) systematized through public reason. Therefore, we argue that a Rawlsian justificatory framework is able to adequately address the normative challenges of autonomous driving and elaborate on how such a framework might be employed for this purpose.

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Michael W. Schmidt
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology


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