Automation, in-attention and the accident: phases and the ethics of autonomous vehicles

This paper theorises automated and autonomous technologies as generating phases. Phases can be defined as the space times disclosed by sensor enabled and internet connected objects. Discussing a fatal accident involving a Tesla Model S car, the paper discusses issues around fault and liability associated with autonomous vehicles. In response to these debates the paper forwards a notion of phase ethics, in which risk and liability are framed in terms of the phases autonomous vehicles produce in a given situation rather than through abstract rule sets or programs that are created by autonomous vehicle designers.

James Ash is a social scientist working at Newcastle University as a Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies. His work investigates the cultures, economies and politics of digital interfaces and the role digital technologies play in transforming everyday life. He is principal investigator on the ESRC funded project Digital Interface and Debt. He is also author of The Interface Envelope: Gaming, Technology, Power (Bloomsbury, 2015) and the forthcoming Phase Media: Space, Time and the Politics of Smart Objects (Bloomsbury, in press).