Bowling Alone in the Autonomous Vehicle: The Ethics of Well-Being in the Driverless Car

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There is a growing body of scholarship on the ethics of autonomous vehicles. Yet the ethical discourse has mostly been focusing on the behavior of the vehicle in accident scenarios. This paper offers a different ethical prism: the implications of the autonomous vehicle for human well-being. As such, it contributes to the growing discourse on the wider societal and moral implications of the autonomous vehicle. The paper is premised on the neo-Aristotelian approach which holds that as human beings, our well-being depends on developing and exercising our innate human capacities: to know, understand, love, be sociable, imagine, create and use our bodies and use our willpower. To develop and exercise these capacities, our environments need to provide a range of opportunities which will trigger the development and exercise of the capacities. The main argument advanced in the paper is that one plausible future of the autonomous vehicle—a future of single-rider autonomous vehicles—may effectively reduce the opportunities to develop and exercise our capacities to know, be sociable and use our willpower. It will therefore be bad for human well-being, and this provides us with a moral reason to resist this plausible future and search for alternative ones.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAI and Society
StatePublished - 2022


  • autonomous vehicle
  • ethics
  • well-being
  • attention


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