The German Ethics Code for Automated and Connected Driving


The ethics of autonomous cars and automated driving have been a subject of discussion in research for a number of years (cf. Lin 2015; Goodall in Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board 2424:58–65, 2014; Goodall in IEEE Spectrum 53(6):28–58, 2016). As levels of automation progress, with partially automated driving already becoming standard in new cars from a number of manufacturers, the question of ethical and legal standards becomes virulent. For exam-ple, while automated and autonomous cars, being equipped with appropriate detection sensors, processors, and intelligent mapping material, have a chance of being much safer than human-driven cars in many regards, situations will arise in which accidents cannot be completely avoided. Such situations will have to be dealt with when programming the software of these vehicles. In several instances, internationally, regulations have been passed, based on legal considerations of road safety, mostly. However, to date, there have been few, if any, cases of a broader ethics code for autonomous or automated driving preceding actual regulation and being based on a broadly composed ethics committee of independent experts. In July 2016, the German Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Alexander Dobrindt, appointed a national ethics committee for automated and connected driving, which began its work in September 2016. In June 2017, this committee presented a code of ethics which was published in German (with annotations, BMVI 2017a) and in English (cf. BMVI 2017b). It consists of 20 ethical guidelines. Having been a member of this committee, I will present the main ethical topics of these guidelines and the discussions that lay behind them.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.


  1. BMVI (2017a).

  2. BMVI (2017b).

  3. Bonnefon, J.-F., Shariff, A., & Rahwan, I. (2016). The social dilemma of autonomous vehicles. Science, 352, 1573–1576.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. EU: General Data Protection Regulation. (2016). Available at: Accessed 25 Mar 2016.

  5. Floridi, L. (2016). The fourth revolution: how the infosphere is reshaping human reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  6. Fournier, T. (2016). Will my next car be a libertarian or a utilitarian? Who will decide? IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 35(2), 40–45.

  7. Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949).

  8. Gogoll, J., & Müller, J. F. (2017). Autonomous cars, in favor of a mandatory ethics setting. Science and Engineering Ethics, 23(Issue 3), 681–700.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Goodall, N. J. (2014). Ethical decision making during automated vehicle crashes. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2424, 58–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Goodall, N. J. (2016). Can you program ethics into a self-driving car? IEEE Spectrum, 53(6), 28–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Hevelke, A., & Nida-Rümelin, J. (2015). Responsibility for crashes of autonomous vehicles: an ethical analysis. Science and Engineering Ethics, 21(Issue 3), 619–630.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Isensee, Josef (2006). Menschenwürde: die säkulare Gesellschaft auf der Suche nach dem Absoluten in Archiv des öffentlichen Rechts, pp. 173–218.

  13. Kalra, N., & Paddock, S. (2016). Driving to safety: how many miles of driving would it take to demonstrate autonomous vehicle reliability?

  14. Korosec, K. (2015). Volvo will accept all liability when its cars are in autonomous mode. Online: Accessed 4 Sept 2017.

  15. Lin, P. (2015). Why ethics matter for autonomous cars. In M. Maurer et al. (Eds.), Autonomes Fahren, Technische, Rechtliche und Gesellschaftliche Aspekte (pp. 70–85). Heidelberg: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Vienna Convention on Road Traffic (1968). Updated 2014, in force since 2016,

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christoph Luetge.

Additional information

For an overview of passed US bills, see

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Luetge, C. The German Ethics Code for Automated and Connected Driving. Philos. Technol. 30, 547–558 (2017).

Download citation


  • Automated driving
  • Autonomous cars
  • Road safety
  • Ethics of digitisation
  • Digital ethics
  • Self-driving cars