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Daimler Explores Legality of Self-Driving Cars

September 29, 2015

Dr. Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt spoke at Daimler's autonomous driving symposium on Sept. 23. Photo courtesy of Daimler.
Dr. Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt spoke at Daimler's autonomous driving symposium on Sept. 23. Photo courtesy of Daimler.

The prospect of self-driving vehicles raises a host of legal and ethical questions, and Daimler recently hosted a symposium in Frankfurt, Germany, to address some of these challenges.

Topics included liability, data protection and ethical questions related to unexpected traffic situations. The Sept. 23 event, titled “Autonomous Driving: Law and Ethics,” attracted more than 100 experts from business, science, politics and the media.

Dr. Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, a member of Daimler AG’s management board, noted she is convinced that autonomous driving will be a fixture of future mobility. But she stressed the need to clarify not only technical requirements but also legal and ethical responsibilities.

“The safety of every road user is our top priority for automated driving as well,” Hohmann-Dennhardt said. “Just as important as technical developments is that our customers have legal certainty and security when it comes to ethical and data protection matters. This is why we promote the dialog on these issues.”

Hohmann-Dennhardt is the board member who oversees Daimler’s integrity and legal affairs.

In a keynote address, Professor Julian Nida-Rümelin highlighted some of the complex issues that must ultimately be resolved before broad autonomous driving deployment. He is a philosophy professor at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich.

“Who is responsible for autonomous driving – the driver, the vehicle owner or the manufacturer?” Nida-Rümelin asked. “Since robots cannot act like humans or be treated like them, we must clarify how to assign our criteria from criminal law, civil law and common morals to the new technologies.”

Nida-Rümelin leads research projects in the field of technology ethics and is a member of Daimler AG’s advisory board for integrity and corporate responsibility.

Open questions related to new technologies will also be examined at Daimler’s 2015 Sustainability Dialogue, scheduled for Stuttgard in November.

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