Carlow’s Atkins Endowed Center for Ethics Will Present The Ethics and Security of Driverless Cars

The Ethics and Security of Driverless Cars will be October 30, at 5:30 pm in the Kresge Center in University Commons.

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Monday, October 30, from 5:30 to 7 pm in Carlow’s Kresge Center

Pittsburgh, Pa. – Carlow University’s Atkins Endowed Center for Ethics will present “The Ethics and Security of Driverless Cars,” a discussion of the benefits and risks inherent in having our streets filled with vehicles that pilot themselves, on Monday, October 30, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Kresge Center, located on the fifth floor of Carlow’s University Commons.  It is free and open to the public.

The main speaker for the event will be Chris Valasek, a computer security researcher with Cruise Automation, a self-driving car startup. Mr. Valasek specializes in reverse engineering and exploitation research. Chris has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh and is the chairman of SummerCon, America’s longest running hacker conference. Mr. Valasek is famed for remotely hacking into the onboard computer of Jeep vehicles and taking control of the dashboard, steering, and braking systems to demonstrate to Chrysler Corporation that their system was vulnerable to attacks from hackers.

“Chris’ contention is that the onboard computers in autonomous vehicles are vulnerable to similar types of hacking,” said William S. Schweers, the inaugural executive director of the Atkins Endowed Center for Ethics.  “Another point for consideration is that the self-driving vehicles may face something tantamount to an ethical decision, if the brakes fail or steering locks.  Have the computers been designed to account for certain nuances?”

For example, Schweers states that one industry that will especially benefit from the introduction of self-driving vehicles might be the long distance trucking industry because a driverless vehicle will not need rest restrictions in the same manner that human truck drivers require.  The question becomes what happens when an 18-wheelers brakes fail on one of Pennsylvania’s hills?  Will the computer governing the car be able to distinguish between hitting a car, a school bus, or going onto a sidewalk and hitting a pedestrian?

To answer some of these questions, James Carmine, PhD, will also speak at the event.  Carmine is a Carlow philosophy professor who teaches a class titled “The Ethics of Robots.”  In it, he challenges students to ask the “what if” questions about how emergency decisions get made by artificial intelligence.

“This should be a topical, thought provoking discussion,” said Schweers.


About Carlow University

Carlow is a private, co-educational, Catholic university located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s “Eds, Meds, and Tech” district. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, Carlow’s graduates, curricula, and partnerships reflect its strong commitment to social justice; ethical, forward-thinking and responsible leadership; and service to the community that has a meaningful impact. Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in three colleges: Health and Wellness, Leadership and Social Change, and Learning and Innovation. Carlow graduates are in demand for their professional expertise, in fields ranging from nursing, the sciences, and perfusion technology to counseling, education, and forensic accounting; their entrepreneurial spirit and creative mindset; and their ability to manage change.  Carlow’s eleven athletic teams are known as the Celtics, a reflection of the university’s Irish heritage and roots.

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