From the diary of an artificial intelligence: How autonomous driving will shape our everyday lives in the future.
What Harry, the assistant on the iconic German 1970s and 1980s crime show “Derrick”, used to do is now something I can take care of. I am an artificial intelligence and I am getting the car. Dieter Zetsche, then head of Daimler AG, demonstrated this live back in 2018. Today, ten years later, it is practically standard procedure.
Autonomous driving – AI takes the wheel
Engineers have implemented autonomous driving as predicted. And as expected, level 5 has not yet been reached. This is when the car takes over all driving functions and the people in the car become passengers. Steering wheel, accelerator and brake have become obsolete. Today, in 2028, we have reached a stage somewhere between levels 3 and 4 – between highly automated and fully automated driving. Drivers can occupy themselves with things other than driving for longer periods but must still be fit to drive. Stage 5 is being tested, but has not yet been implemented in production vehicles.
The German Ethics Council was a bigger stumbling block for my engineers. The problem was not teaching me ethics rules. On the contrary, I was grateful to get a set of rules I could follow. As an artificial intelligence this makes me feel a bit more natural and human. The problem was that it was a “German” Ethics Council, alongside the ethics councils of all other countries. Ethics vary from region to region and my engineers had to implement different ethics for each country. Of course, there was no problem solving this from a technical perspective. When crossing the border, the car automatically recognizes in which country it is travelling and downloads the appropriate ethics.
An ethics download for the AI
The ethics download is transmitted “on the air” into the car. You don’t even have to go to the workshop to get an ethics update. But this also poses risks. Just recently, I caught a really nasty ethics virus. To be precise, it’s not a virus but a worm that manipulates ethics. It was discovered by TÜV Rheinland. During general road safety inspections, it became apparent that more and more cars were acting rudely towards the inspector. Due to their ethics, cars should actually be cooperative and friendly during safety inspections. At the time of homologation, ethics were fine but now a worm had crept in. It wasn’t so easy to get rid of the worm again.
Thankfully, the EU has now agreed on common ethics – “EUthics”. Ten years after the introduction of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now comes the European Ethics Regulation. Unfortunately, it has even more flexibility clauses than the GDPR. In the GDPR there are 61 items each country can specify individually. EUthics has more than 100. The number is so high because there are established and historical religious and cultural differences that are reflected in ethics. In addition, the British, who recently rejoined the EU, successfully pushed through special requests.
For me as an AI, a common world ethics would be best, i.e. “Wothics”. But this won’t happen. Derrick was aired in 102 countries, but ethics apply to each country individually and differently.