Meaningful human control as reason-responsiveness: the case of dual-mode vehicles

Giulio Mecacci*, Filippo Santoni de Sio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
126 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper, in line with the general framework of value-sensitive design, we aim to operationalize the general concept of “Meaningful Human Control” (MHC) in order to pave the way for its translation into more specific design requirements. In particular, we focus on the operationalization of the first of the two conditions (Santoni de Sio and Van den Hoven 2018) investigated: the so-called ‘tracking’ condition. Our investigation is led in relation to one specific subcase of automated system: dual-mode driving systems (e.g. Tesla ‘autopilot’). First, we connect and compare meaningful human control with a concept of control very popular in engineering and traffic psychology (Michon 1985), and we explain to what extent tracking resembles and differs from it. This will help clarifying the extent to which the idea of meaningful human control is connected to, but also goes beyond, current notions of control in engineering and psychology. Second, we take the systematic analysis of practical reasoning as traditionally presented in the philosophy of human action (Anscombe, Bratman, Mele) and we adapt it to offer a general framework where different types of reasons and agents are identified according to their relation to an automated system’s behaviour. This framework is meant to help explaining what reasons and what agents (should) play a role in controlling a given system, thereby enabling policy makers to produce usable guidelines and engineers to design systems that properly respond to selected human reasons. In the final part, we discuss a practical example of how our framework could be employed in designing automated driving systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-115
Number of pages13
JournalEthics and Information Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Accountability for autonomous systems
  • Ethics of human–robot interaction
  • Ethics of self-driving cars
  • Meaningful human control
  • Proximity scale of reasons
  • Responsible innovation in self-driving cars


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