Driving in the Dark: Designing Autonomous Vehicles for Reducing Light Pollution

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This paper proposes that autonomous vehicles should be designed to reduce light pollution. In support of this specific proposal, a moral assessment of autonomous vehicles more comprehensive than the dilemmatic life-and-death questions of trolley problem-style situations is presented. The paper therefore consists of two interre-lated arguments. The first is that autonomous vehicles are currently still a technol-ogy in development, and not one that has acquired its definitive shape, meaning the design of both the vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure is open-ended. Design for values is utilized to articulate a path forward, by which engineering ethics should strive to incorporate values into a technology during its development phase. Second, it is argued that nighttime lighting—a critical supporting infrastructure—should be a prima facie consideration for autonomous vehicles during their development phase. It is shown that a reduction in light pollution, and more boldly a better balance of lighting and darkness, can be achieved via the design of future autonomous vehicles. Two case studies are examined (parking lots and highways) through which autono-mous vehicles may be designed for “driving in the dark.” Nighttime lighting issues are thus inserted into a broader ethics of autonomous vehicles, while simultaneously introducing questions of autonomous vehicles into debates about light pollution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-403
Number of pages17
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Ethics of self-driving cars
  • Nighttime lighting
  • Light pollution
  • Transportation ethics
  • Responsible innovation of self-driving cars
  • Design for values


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