Audi looks into 'societal dimension' of autonomous driving


Autonomous driving has become such an important part of today’s automobile development that almost all vehicle manufacturers try to come up with their own versions of autonomous driving technology.


  • What is the &Audi Initiative?

    The &Audi Initiative is the German carmaker's specialized division that focuses on artificial intelligence and autonomous driving.
  • What are the three focal points of the 2021 “SocAIty” study?

    The study has three important chapters including “Law and progress,” “Relationships of trust between human and machine,” and “Networked security.”
  • What does the study say about the future of autonomous driving?

    The study suggests that people will need time to establish a good trusting relationship with autonomous driving.
  • “After electromobility, the next, clearly more radical change is the transition to more intelligent and, ultimately, autonomous vehicles. For us, autonomous driving is a key technology that can make traffic safer and mobility more comfortable and inclusive,” said Audi AG CEO Markus Duesmann.


    While safety is of paramount importance when talking about vehicles that require little to no input from the driver, Audi is now looking at a different side of self-driving cars — the overall societal dimension of autonomous driving.

    The German carmaker has recently published a study through &Audi Initiative (Audi’s artificial intelligence division), dubbed The 2021 “SocAIty,” which provides answers to legal, ethical, and political questions about autonomous driving.


    The are three focal points to the study, said Audi. The chapter “Law and progress” deals with, among other things, current questions about liability, while “Relationships of trust between human and machine” looks at the ethical dimension of autonomous driving, and “Networked security” addresses the relevant data protection and security aspects.

    “All in all, the result is an image of a mobility landscape that will look different in 2030 from what it looks like today but will manage without science fiction. So Audi wants to establish appropriate expectations for the possibilities and limits of technology in society and to create trust,” explained Project Manager for the &Audi Initiative at Audi AG Saskia Lexen.2021-SocAIty-study-2


    Audi’s study claims that mobility in 2030 will be heavily characterized by a new kind of mixed traffic, the kind where autonomous vehicles encounter vehicles driven by people. This will cause the majority of road users — and the society — to adapt and learn the new rules in driving.


    Furthermore, the industry’s strides towards more ecologically sustainable traffic as well as networked and data-driven mobility concepts can also have an enormous social impact.

    The 2021 “SocAIty” study says offers a prognosis to this significant cultural shift: people will need time to establish a good trusting relationship with autonomous driving.

    Ultimately, contending with dilemmas in accident situations is inevitable for understanding the ethical aspects of autonomous driving. However, the discussion is often emotional and, from the perspective of some experts, ideologized based on safety-related and ethical considerations.

    For that reason, the experts agree that the next important step consists of clearly defining ethical foundations based on realistic situations and taking up actual challenges and questions that companies and legislators have to contend with.

    In addition, The 2021 “SocAIty” study provides an image of the future of autonomous driving and paints a landscape that’s more diverse and compartmentalized and will produce more mobility solutions that are suited to their goals.

    The study also predicts that demand will also increasingly be determined by the person’s location. Audi saw similar needs increasingly prevail in large cities: places like New York, London, and Shanghai have comparable basic conditions and needs with respect to mobility, flexibility, and customer expectations.

    Most of the experts see the US as a driving force behind the technology of autonomous driving. And while not all new technologies will be primarily developed there, the US will help put them on the road — with the help of capital and expertise.

    “The US often takes on the role of incubator; it breaks new ground early on. In China, on the other hand, new technology is often quickly rolled out and scaled across the board,” commented Audi AG Head of General Counsel Legal Services Uta Karen Klawitter.

    On the other hand, China is seen as a trailblazer in scaling and widespread technology penetration, thanks to the country’s ongoing infrastructure expansion as well as its people’s high degree of social appreciation for new technologies.

    Meanwhile, experts say that Germany and Europe will primarily be innovation sites for vehicle technologies and high-volume production, while playing an important role as sales markets in ten years. As a result, European consumer rights and data protection regulations will impact global conditions and product standards for the entire industry.

    Photos from Audi

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