Three Laws of Robotics: Germany Made a Set of Ethics For Autonomous Cars

We're entering the era of the robot, and we're going to need some new laws.

9. 13. 16 by Ramon Perez
Bart Maat/Getty Images E
Image by Bart Maat/Getty Images E

Given the recent accidents involving self-driving cars, it’s only a matter of time before someone lays down the ethical foundations needed to govern these new technological developments. And it seems that Germany is leading the race.

In response to this year’s accidents, three key rules regarding autonomous driving have been laid out by Germany’s transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, as a starting point for the country’s future laws in preventing  A.I. from making any decisions that could harm humans, or humanity as a whole.

Watch: How Driverless Cars See

With Asimov’s three laws of robotics serving as the governing voice, the three key rules, published in an interview at Wirtschaftswoche, are as follows:


  1. “It is clear that property damage takes always precedence of personal injury.”
  2. “There must be no classification of people, for example, on the size, age and the like,” and,
  3. “If something happens, the manufacturer is liable”

Though the third rule may imply that the driver will not be held responsible for any accident that happens when they’re behind the wheel, Dorbindt points out that driver-awareness is still a must.

So still no sleeping in the car…for now.

To be implemented alongside Germany’s Black Box regulation, Dobrindt has created an ethics commission that will work out the specifics in terms of regulation and clear up any ambiguities that may arise unexpectedly in varying situations.

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