Apple calls for ethics debate around self-driving cars - Mobile World Live

Apple calls for ethics debate around self-driving cars

05 DEC 2016

Apple confirmed it is “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation”, in a letter to the US highways regulator.

There is been much speculation about Apple’s plans for self-driving cars, and now, for the first time officially, it has given some thoughts on the subject.

Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, wrote to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Along with the Department of Transport, the NHTSA is developing a policy on automated vehicles.

“Executed properly under NHTSA’s guidance, automated vehicles have the potential to greatly enhance the human experience — to prevent millions of car crashes and thousands of fatalities each year and to give mobility to those without,” said Kenner’s letter.

Furthermore, Apple commends the regulator for including ethical considerations in its discussion. Because automated vehicles promise such “a broad and deep human impact”, companies should consider its ethics in “comparably broad and deep terms”.

The company spotlights three areas in need of attention: the implications for self-driving cars of algorithmic (machine-driven) decisions for safety, mobility and legality of automated vehicles and their occupants; the challenge of ensuring privacy and security in the design of automated cars; and the impact of such vehicles on the public good, including on employment and public spaces.

Privacy debate
Apple also has a view on data sharing in self-driving cars.

It agrees that companies should share anonymised scenario and dynamics data from crashes and near misses. The shared data should be sufficient to reconstruct events, rather than identify individuals. It makes more sense for industry-wide sharing, rather than individual companies keeping data to themselves, Apple argues.

The company also said it looks forward to working with others to define exactly what data should be shared.

However, it said data sharing “should not come at the expense of privacy”. It argues companies should invest in the necessary resources to protect consumers.

Apple said it supports the NHTSA’s privacy principles, and believes the industry should refine the Consumer Privacy Protection Principles to be more in line with the policy. It also encourages collaboration with privacy experts outside the industry.


Richard Handford

Richard is the editor of Mobile World Live’s money channel and a contributor to the daily news service. He is an experienced technology and business journalist who previously worked as a freelancer for many publications over the last decade including...

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