The &Audi Initiative, which Audi launched in 2015 to encourage interdisciplinary exchange on new technologies such as artificial intelligence and autonomous driving, signed a study on autonomous driving.
Covering studies on the social dimension of autonomous driving on many topics from legal issues to ethical questions and digital responsibility, the 2021 “SocAIty” research includes comments by experts from Europe, the USA and Asia.
Autonomous driving is one of the future goals of the automotive world. Both the technological maturity of the driving systems and the social dimension are important for autonomous driving to be widely accepted all over the world. Besides the general legal and political conditions, the way people view new technologies such as autonomous driving is also critical.
Launched by Audi in 2015, &Audi Initiative discussed the basic issues of the future of autonomous driving with 19 scientists who are experts in politics and economics, and the results were published in the “SocAIty” study.
Saying that the automotive world will transition to a more radical change after electromobility, AUDI AG CEO Markus Duesmann said, “Smarter and autonomous vehicles will be the result of this. At Audi, we look at autonomous driving as an important technology that can make traffic safer and mobility more comfortable and inclusive. In cooperation with Volkswagen Group's software company CARIAD, we are moving this technology forward at full speed.”
We move out of the ivory tower and bring dialogue into the public realm.
Saskia Lexen, Project Manager of &Audi Initiative, stated that they aim to contribute to the public debate on autonomous driving with Audi's 2021 “SocAlty” study, and said, “With &Audi Initiative, we are bringing dialogue out of the ivory tower and into the public space. By doing this, we want to illuminate the opportunities and challenges behind advances in individual mobility. This study addresses key questions in the fields of law, ethics and data security: How does the car react in the event of an accident? Who is responsible in an accident involving an autonomous vehicle? Who owns the data produced? These are just a few of the questions and considerations the study explores in detail. It also examines what mobility might look like with autonomous vehicles and what the critical areas of activity are on the road to the future. In conclusion, the study provides a practical basis for the actors involved in the subject.”
Saying that there is a consensus that it is time to get rid of future scenarios that have little to do with reality and work together on a realistic vision, Lexen said, “In the long run, autonomous driving will change our society and especially the mobility environment for the better. People will be able to get from point A to point B more comfortably and more reliably despite the higher traffic density. And certain groups of people who previously had limited mobility, access to individual mobility kazanwill ache. All this will become more efficient and climate-friendly than before through electrification and smart traffic guidance. In summary, the work creates a vision for the mobility landscape of the future, which will look very different in 2030 than it does today.”
A vision of the future in 2030: Mobility will be more diverse, segmented and inclusive
The “SocAIty” study focuses on the three topics of discussion; The “Law and progress” section deals with current questions of responsibility, the “Relations of trust between man and machine” section deals with the ethical dimension of autonomous driving, and the “Networked security” section deals with relevant data protection and security issues.
One of the key ideas on which the work is based is that by 2030 the mobility landscape will be more diverse and segmented, producing more targeted mobility solutions.
It is also envisaged that the diversity of forms of micromobility will increase, particularly in cities. Accordingly, the demand will gradually be shaped according to the position of the person. In big cities such as New York, London and Shanghai, the needs are more similar and come to the fore day by day. In this sense, these three regions, which have comparable basic conditions and needs in terms of mobility, flexibility and customer expectations, are included in the research.
Saskia Lexen, Project Manager of &Audi Initiative, said that Audi aims to create appropriate expectations and confidence in the society for the possibilities and limits of technology.
USA, China and Europe triangle
Most of the experts involved in the study see the USA as the driving force behind autonomous driving technology. They agree that even if not all new technologies are thought to be developed there first, they will start here with the help of capital and expertise.
China is seen as a pioneer in scaling and widespread technology penetration. Reasons for this include the determined expansion of infrastructure and the significant acceptance of new technologies by society.
In addition to its importance as a market in Germany and Europe, it will primarily be the center for vehicle technologies and high-volume production. This means that Europe's consumer rights and data protection regulations will affect global conditions and product standards for the entire industry.
Admission largely depends on personal experience
According to the research, mobility in 2030 will be characterized by a new type of mixed traffic, where autonomous vehicles will encounter vehicles driven by humans. Those who use the roads will gradually adapt and will have to learn new rules. For this important cultural shift, people will need to build a relationship of trust with autonomous driving, and they will need time. The acceptance and trust of new technology will be measured by the increase in comfort, safety and usability.
In addition to the potential for more efficient and therefore more ecologically sustainable traffic, the study also states that the concepts of connected and data-driven mobility can have a tremendous social impact. It is envisaged that this will include new services for human needs and will ideally introduce a new form of inclusiveness and greater social mobility.
Accident and risk avoidance
One of the questions sought to be answered in the research was “Who do we give priority to avoiding?”. In order to understand the ethical aspects of autonomous driving, it is inevitable to deal with the dilemmas in accident situations. In contrast, the current debate on the issue is often emotional and, in some ways, ideologized based on security and ethical considerations. Experts therefore agree that the next important step is to clearly define the ethical foundations based on realistic situations, with companies and legislators having to address real challenges and questions.