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Experts at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have pioneered the world’s first ethical algorithm for autonomous vehicles, which could see autonomous driving become the norm globally.

The researchers’ ethical algorithm is significantly more advanced than its predecessors, as it fairly distributes levels of risks instead of operating on an either/or principle. The algorithm has been tested in 2,000 scenarios of critical conditions in various settings, such as streets in Europe, the US, and China. The innovation could improve the safety and uptake of autonomous vehicles worldwide.

The ethical parameters of the algorithm’s risk evaluation were defined by an expert panel as a written recommendation from the European Commission in 2020. This included basic principles such as for the worst-off and the fair distribution of risk for all road users.

The researchers explained that even though algorithms using risk ethics can make decisions based on the ethical principles of each traffic situation, they cannot ensure accident-free street traffic. Therefore, moving forward, additional differentiations, such as cultural differences in ethical decision-making, will need to be considered.

The research, ‘An ethical trajectory planning algorithm for autonomous vehicles,’ is published in Nature Machine Intelligence, as reported on by

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