Written by : -Sukanya Bhat
The normal norms or principles for a certain standard of behaviour which is protected by Law are called human rights. Undoubtedly, technology has been impacting many aspects of human life, including road vehicles. An autonomous vehicle is usually defined as a road vehicle which is capable of sensing the surroundings and is able to control movements without a driver. The vehicle is an attempt towards replacing the human driver with artificial intelligence. Innumerable technological advancements have been made in auto car manufacturing primarily for increasing the efficiency of vehicles with an emphasis on safety. Research and Development in this area from the beginning was directed towards making these advancements driver friendly. Air Bags, GPS System are some of the systems which has made driving easier and convenient. Similarly, the Crab-Like system introduced by Hyundai has made car parking easier. However, are these advancements really beneficial? Does replacement of the human driver lead to a compromise on the human rights? Are AI vehicles safe in reality? The writer attempts to explain how the autonomous cars could violate human rights.
Advantages of Autonomous Vehicles
Development of autonomous cars have the following advantages for human beings:
1) Disability Rights: The self-driven car ensures greater mobility to the people having disabilities. The vehicle provides and enhances their contribution in society.
2) Right to Life: Self-Driven cars have significant potential to reduce traffic congestions thereby protecting the Right to Life. It attempts to minimise the possibility of accidents due to human errors.
3) Economic Opportunities: The development of self-driven vehicles creates new job opportunities in industries related to design, manufacturing, maintenance, and oversight of self-driving systems. This helps to protect their right to work for financial well-being.
4) Benefit to the Environment: Autonomous vehicles can significantly reduce pollution due to fuel consumption and emission. This supports the right to a clean and healthy environment, by contributing to efforts for combating climate change.
There are several other advantages such as contribution to better mental health and wellbeing. Also, in the event of an accident, autonomous vehicles helps in spontaneous interaction with emergency services, for reducing the time to react in saving lives, thereby defending the right to life and safety. The information gathered will be useful, particularly in the event of an accident (the information on speed, position, commuters, and driver behaviour will be useful in establishing potential liability and the size of the insurance claim).
Violation of Human Rights by Autonomous Vehicles
There is a general feeling that the advantages of autonomous vehicles are likely to have a boomeranging effect on human rights.
1) Right to Safety: Public safety due to autonomous driving in the preliminary stages is currently suspect since a certain level of safety must be attained before placing such vehicles on public roads. “Safety” requirement, at the very least, involves diligent management of vehicle-level activities, such as adhering to local traffic laws and addressing the dangers posed by rash driving on the roads. In order to maintain a high level of safety, it will also be necessary to address unusual traffic accidents, to which artificial intelligence could have remedies. It will be possible to programme autonomous vehicles to behave in a certain way for normal driving, but what will happen when the situation unexpectedly changes? There is a high possibility of wrong data being transmitted which will make it complicated for the AI system to detect and react to the car behaviour either adjacent or coming from the opposite side. While artificial intelligence is created to carry out tasks that are advantageous for humans, it is capable of making unanticipated decisions if it develops a risky strategy to accomplish its objectives. Although an autonomous car can be programmed to follow human commands, such as getting someone to their destination as quickly as possible, it may still break traffic laws and cause accidents.
2) Cybersecurity: Ensuring the security of self-driving car systems is essential to protect individuals from cyber threats and unauthorized surveillance. There are high chances that the data stored in the autonomous vehicles is vulnerable to hacking and cyber manipulation as they are connected to other vehicles. They are also morally and ethically dubious due to the absence of a human driver to make rational judgements in challenging and tough circumstances. If the system is hacked, there is a possibility of the vehicles vision getting misled by false images of the road. There are possibilities that the vehicle is tricked to encounter a surrounding which it cannot deal with.
3) Right to Privacy: Large volumes of information about the locations, pursuits, and preferences of passengers are frequently gathered by self-driven automobiles. The right to privacy of individuals is likely to be violated, if the data is not protected.
People's movements and the sharing of data would be under the management of autonomous cars. So, choosing a driverless car or not falls under the category of personal autonomy. It is linked to peoples' capacity for self-determination and selfdetermined decision-making. But more critically, the deployment of autonomous vehicles will make it more difficult to monitor information about a person's present and future whereabouts, time of departure, and manner of travel. The majority of important decisions still rest in the hands of people; a vehicle can only regulate its speed or the manner it travels from place to place. Malfunctions or restrictions on selfdriving cars operation could impede an individual’s free mobility. Passengers in autonomous cars may feel their privacy is compromised, especially if the vehicle's interior is equipped with cameras or other sensors. Passengers may want assurance that their conversations and actions within the vehicle are not being recorded or monitored without their consent.
4) Right to Equality and Various Basic Human Rights
The widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles could lead to job displacement in industries like transportation and delivery, impacting individuals' employment rights and livelihoods. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to disrupt industries like trucking and taxi services.
Algorithm Bias: Autonomous car systems rely heavily on algorithms, and these algorithms can carry biases. If these biases lead to discriminatory results, then it would lead to a violation of human rights. For example, autonomous cars are more likely to recognize and respond to pedestrians of one race over another, leading to a human rights concern.
Accessibility: If self-driving technology is not made accessible to all, it could exacerbate inequality by limiting access to convenient and safe transportation, particularly for those who cannot afford it.
Technological advancement is definitely beneficial. The attempt by manufacturers towards making autonomous cars is a huge step towards development of an ecofriendly environment and an advanced and efficient AI which will bring a drastic change in the lives of people. While enjoying the fruits of mental labour, it is essential to remember that the “man makes the machine” he should not allow the machine to control him. It is crucial to emphasise that these potential human rights violations are not intrinsic to selfdriving technology but may happen if proper rules, moral standards, and safety precautions are not introduced and implemented. Human rights and societal welfare should be pivotal in the development and deployment of self-driving automobiles in a responsible manner.
Addressing these issues involves a delicate balance between technological advancement and safeguarding human rights, requiring legal and ethical frameworks to be developed and enforced without compromising the rights of an individuals. Last but not the least, if the autonomous vehicle meets with an accident then who bears the liability?
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 Rohit Ray, Liability For Self Driving Vehicles: Is There Anyone To Blame? Live Law (2022), https://www.livelaw.in/lawschoolcolumn/liability-for-self-driving-vehicles-automated-cars-driverlesstechnology-212778?infinitescroll=1 (last visited Sep 12, 2023).
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