Towards common ethical and safe ‘behaviour’ standards for automated vehicles

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Automated vehicles (AVs) aim to dramatically improve traffic safety by reducing or eliminating human error, which remains the leading cause of road crashes. However, commonly accepted standards for the ‘safe driving behaviour of machines’ are pending and urgently needed. Unless a common understanding of safety as a design value is achieved, different manufacturers’ driving styles may emerge, resulting in inconsistent, unpredictable and potentially unsafe ‘behaviour’ of AVs in certain situations. This paper aims to explore the main gaps and challenges towards establishing shared safety standards for the ‘behaviour’ of AVs, and contribute to their responsible traffic integration, by reviewing the state-of-the-art on AV safety in the core relevant disciplines: ethics of technology, safety science (engineering & human factors), and standardisation. The ethical and safety aspects investigated include the users’ perception of AV safety, the ethical trade-offs in critical decision-making contexts, the pertinence of data-driven approaches for AVs to mimic human behaviour, and the responsibilities of various actors. Moreover, the paper reviews the current safety patterns, metrics (surrogate measures of safety – SMoS) and their thresholds introduced in existing research for three use cases: mixed traffic of AV and conventional vehicles, AV interaction with pedestrians and cyclists, and transition of control from machine to human driver. The results reveal several knowledge gaps within each discipline and highlights the lack of common understanding of safety across disciplines. On the basis of the results, the paper proposes a framework for further research on AV safety, identifying concrete opportunities for interdisciplinary research, with common goals and methodologies, and explicitly indicating the path for transfer of knowledge between sectors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106724
Number of pages13
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Automated vehicles
  • Ethics
  • Safety
  • Standardisation


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