Monthly Archives: July 2016

“Responsibility in Engineering: Toward a New Role for Engineering Ethicists”

Responsibility in Engineering: Toward a New Role for Engineering Ethicists

Traditionally, the management of technology has focused on the stages before or after development of technology. In this approach the technology itself is conceived as the result of a deterministic enterprise; a result that is to be either rejected or embraced. However, recent insights from Science and Technology Studies (STS) have shown that there is ample room to modulate technology during development. This requires technology managers and engineering ethicists to become more involved in the technological research rather than assessing it from an outsider perspective. Instead of focusing on the question whether or not to authorize, approve, or adopt a certain technology or on the question of who is to blame for potential mistakes, the guiding question in this new approach is how research is to be carried out.

Responsibility in Engineering: Toward a New Role for Engineering Ethicists by Neelke Doorn, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands, n.doorn{at}
and Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

doi: 10.1177/0270467610372112
Bulletin of Science Technology Society June 2010 vol. 30 no. 3 222-230

Negotiated Rulemaking

Is it ethical to not use safety technology which could save human lives?

I still can’t believe that they are gone and won’t ever come back.

The circumstances that led to their deaths, and the way that fighting for safer roads has taken over my life, make it all seem so unreal.

Oh, sure, there are big chunks of normal everyday life. But overall, there is a sense that something is very wrong with this world and how can I ever go back to thinking otherwise?

I wrote those words last night in an effort to grapple with the aching grief.

As I reflect more upon that dilemma, I think that it stems from a kind of raging helplessness, an inability to change that which callously tosses aside the value of human life and is able to do so because there is always someone else at whom to point the finger of blame or to expect to shoulder the responsibility to do something about the problem.

So the end result, for the embittered mourner, may be that there is no easily-identified enemy to fight. Victory is elusive. Intangible. Slippery. If a battle is won, too often loopholes appear or the victory has come only through compromise.

And why should that be? Why don’t we place a higher value on saving human life from preventable, senseless deaths? Is compromise the only option?

Is it because of a lurking attitude of c’est la vie, que sera sera — that’s life, whatever will be , will be?

Until it touches your life. Then you’ll understand. Then it will be too late.

Car Safety Wars

Writing this because I miss them. . .

Note: After writing the above, I looked to see what I could find online regarding the ethics of saving human lives related to road safety. [My search terms were: Is it ethical to not use safety technology to save human lives?] I found an interesting essay on the topic, Saving lives in road traffic—ethical aspects, and am pasting the concluding remarks from that article here:

I would like to end this overview of ethical problem areas in traffic safety with some concluding thoughts on how these five ethical topics can be included and inform policy.


Attempts should be made to analyse the problem at hand carefully and as open-mindedly as possible before rushing to the conclusion that the best way to reduce or eliminate an unwanted and harmful behaviour is to criminalise and punish. Alternatives should be considered and creativity in problem solving encouraged. A good example is drunk driving where the alcohol interlock is a device worth considering as an alternative or at least additional measure to punishment.


Most measures to increase safety in road traffic can be motivated by the notion of protecting others against harm, which means that even a liberal can endorse them. However, there are some measures where the most beneficial to society may be to ignore it, for example motorcyclists not wearing a helmet, but where most people still believe society should protect individuals against harm by legislation or technology. It should be acknowledged that this is the case, and it would be helpful to carefully analyse and discuss new measures, keeping in mind the distinction between harming others and harming oneself. In some cases, most people share an intuition that a measure is justifiable even though it is paternalistic, but in other cases paternalistic measures appear unjustifiable. By acknowledging and discussing such issues freely and publicly we make sure that new laws and technologies are at least closer to being ethically justifiable.


There appears to be a fundamental difference between privacy in our own homes and privacy on the road. The reasons we are equally attached to the notion of privacy in our cars as we are to privacy in our homes are tradition, culture and habits. We should recognise that the great degree of risk-exposure associated with driving may imply that the expectation of privacy on the road is not reasonable.


A humane society protects vulnerable human beings. A humane infrastructure protects vulnerable road users, for example children, the elderly and disabled people. This implies that we should not count their lives or the quality of their lives less than others. It may even mean that additional attention should be directed at protecting such groups. A minimal requirement should be that potential damaging effects on vulnerable groups should always be taken into account when planning infrastructural projects.


The traditional view of responsibility for traffic safety is closely attached to the notion that safety is about individuals driving safely and that accidents are caused by drivers. While this is true to some extent, the emerging view that a major role can and should be played by institutions, for example governments and vehicle-producing companies, is useful and reasonable. The implied notion is that responsibility has to be distributed and shared between different actors if a safer road traffic environment is to be achieved.

People in industrialised societies are so used to road traffic that it is almost considered a part of nature. Consequently, we do not acknowledge that we can introduce change and that we can affect the role we have given road traffic and cars. By acknowledging the ethical aspects of road traffic and illuminating the way the choices society makes are ethically charged, it becomes clear that there are alternative ways to design the road traffic system. The most important general conclusion is that discussion concerning these alternative ways of designing the system should be encouraged. Here are some examples of questions to address in public debates:

  • What are the reasons for prohibiting certain behaviour or requiring a certain safety device—to protect the individual from herself, to protect others or to save money? Which of these reasons are valid?
  • Should society criminalise unsafe behaviour or use technology (when possible) to eliminate the unwanted behaviour?
  • To what extent is it reasonable to expect privacy on the road?
  • Should additional measures be used to protect vulnerable road users?
  • Should safety be seen as the result of individuals behaving responsibly or the system designers designing safe systems?

Saving lives in road traffic—ethical aspects

1Department of Philosophy, Delft University of Technology, P.O. Box 5015, 2600 GA Delft, The Netherlands
2Division of Philosophy, Royal Institute of Technology, Teknikringen 78B, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden
Jessica Nihlén Fahlquist, Phone: +46-739-853215, ln.tfledut@tsiuqlhaf-nelhin.a.j.

How many crash deaths will there be in the next 100 days & next 4 years? 10,000/140,000?

Every day that goes by, someone in our country is impacted by Vehicle Violence. So in the next 100 days, as we approach the 2016 Election Day in November, what kind of crash statistics might we expect?

According to Lou Lombardo, we can estimate what we have to look forward to in the next 100 days, as well as the next 4 years:

Next 100 Days

Over the next 100 days Vehicle Violence, in the U.S.A. alone, will result in:

~10,000 Deaths.  Current rate about 100 deaths per day.

~ 40,000 Serious Injuries. Serious injuries include Brain (TBIs, Spinal Cord (quadriplegia and paraplegia), amputations and burns at a current rate of about 400 per day.

~ $200 Billion in losses. Current rate about $2 Billion in losses per day.

Next 4 Years

Over the next 4 years Vehicle Violence, in the U.S.A. alone, can be expected at current rates to result in:

~ 140,000 Deaths.  Current rate is about 35,000 Deaths per year.

~  560,000 Serious Injuries.  Current rate is about 140,000 serious injuries per year.

~  $3 Trillion in losses.  Current rate is about $836 Billion per year using 2010 NHTSA estimates.

“When quality of life valuations are considered, the total value of societal harm from motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was $836billion.”




Lou Lombardo
We should ask ourselves, will our next President do anything to change that outlook?
Next 4 years

One truck driver is concerned that developing automated safety systems for trucks is more difficult.

If you are hoping that automated safety technology for trucks could make a big difference, be sure and read the opinion of one truck driver, who is concerned that developing automated safety systems for trucks is more difficult.

While these electronic systems have lightning-fast reactions, they don’t have the nuanced judgment of an experienced over-the-road trucker — someone who over many miles has likely encountered every type of road hazard. . .

I am all for anything that will save me time and fuel, and prevent a crash. I really like how when it works, the system tells me the speed and distance of the vehicle in front. That’s really handy when you drive a truck governed at 65 mph. It helps me figure out when to pass in the left lane without affecting traffic flow. The fact that it slows you down gradually to keep you at a safe following distance also is beneficial.

But I worry that turning over control of an 80,000-pound highway missile to sensors and software requires more research and thought. My experience is that these systems are not ready for our highways. Those who want to rush them onto the road in the name of safety better make sure they work.

Let’s do this right. Let’s examine traffic safety from every angle. Let’s work together toward a common goal: saving lives.

Both And

A Video Game That Lets You Drive An 18-Wheeler Big Rig

A new video game that lets you drive an 18-wheeler big rig. Safely. I hope it has , or they add, features to help truck drivers learn how to deal with real-life trucking issues like driver fatigue. And what it’s like when bad things happen. Like crashes.

This Video Game Lets You Drive an 18-Wheel Truck

Maybe it could help prevent at least one deadly crash.

Driving While Fatigued

One truck driver is concerned that developing automated safety systems for trucks is more difficult.

Could it have been you? Could you ever be the parent that left their child in a car?

I can’t get it out of my mind. After reading the explanation of how it is a parent could be forgetful and end up leaving their child in the car, it didn’t take much for me to recall ways that I have been distracted or known others who were. Oh, not by leaving a child all day in a car, but. . .

I will never forget the time when our AnnaLeah was 2 and her younger brother had just been born. She and her 6 older siblings stayed overnight with my aunt so that I could have a break at home with the newborn. Brave woman. When we went to pick up the kids later, we found out that they had had some excitement. . .

My aunt put AnnaLeah on her bed to change her diaper. In the process, something came up and my aunt told AnnaLeah to stay right there, not to move, and she would be right back. As it turns out, while AnnaLeah lay there obediently, her great-aunt had forgotten about her and taken the other 6 for a walk with the dog down the road nearby. All of a sudden, my aunt realized somebody was missing and said, “Where’s AnnaLeah?”

They hurried back to the house and there AnnaLeah was waiting patiently on the bed like she was told to do! We always teased my aunt about that incident and laughed about it many times over the years because we thought it so funny. But how tragic that would have been for all of us had AnnaLeah been left in a car and forgotten. Imagine.

It could happen to anyone. Even me. Even you or someone you know.

Or, like today, our family had medical appointments at Duke Clinic where we left the car with the Valet service. After getting the parking stub and handing over the keys, Jerry got his things from the car and started to go inside the building and then thought, “Did I leave the parking ticket in the car?” It turns out he hadn’t. But, in the rush of trying to get somewhere, the wires got crisscrossed.

Then, later, while we were waiting to get our car, another woman went up to the Valet booth and said that the woman with her had left her purse in the car which had already been parked. In a hurry. Forgetful.

The point is that no one intends for these children to be forgotten in hot cars, and we could work together as a society to prevent these unbearably tragic deaths. If only we would.

Hot car deathsLook before you lock


How We Can Protect Children From Dying in Hot Cars? To err is to be human. But we can do this.

I had read a blogpost before by a parent who had lost a child in a hot car death. And recently I have heard about the increase of such deaths and the push to get doable solutions to reduce these horrible tragedies.

Then I read an article today by Janette Fennell, director of, who mentioned the need for parent education but along with other solutions:

. . . education is not enough. We cannot educate every single parent, grandparent, babysitter and caregiver in the country. And most parents don’t believe that the worst mistake a parent can make could happen to them. But blaming them only deepens the heart-rending impact of these incidents for families who are already overwhelmed by guilt and grief. To err is to be human. How We Can Protect Children From Dying in Hot Cars

Reading that immediately brought to mind the days and weeks after our truck underride crash, on May 4, 2013 (a date embedded in my mind) in which we lost AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13). I was in the hospital myself for almost a week and due to the circumstances it was some time before I heard the news that AnnaLeah had died instantly and later the news that Mary had died due to her injuries.

When I did find out, I can’t really describe it for you to fully grasp, but I just wanted it to be me instead of them. “Why couldn’t it have been me? They had so much life yet to live. Let me take their place.” But, of course, nothing was going to change the awful reality. They were gone. They would never come back.

And, as I learned the circumstances of the crash, that a truck had hit us spinning us around and hitting us again — sending us backwards into the back of another truck (whose weak, ineffective underride guard failed) and AnnaLeah & Mary in the back seat took the brunt of it, their bodies broken by the truck — I wanted it to have been me. [Especially since I had been driving and if we had simply rear-ended the truck, it would have been me that died.]

They were totally innocent; they had done nothing to deserve their lives to be snatched senselessly from them. I wasn’t sure that I could bear going on living with the knowledge that they were gone and I had lived.

Let it be me, Lord.

I think of that now — knowing that I was not responsible for their deaths (although I could have left the restaurant 5 minutes sooner and not been in that place at that time). And then I try to imagine the guilt those parents must feel for having left their child in a car — even though they did not do it on purpose. On top of the ongoing grief which will be a daily part of their lives.

Makes my heart break.

Today, I read another article by a professor of cognitive and neural sciences who has been researching this problem for some time now and says that it is a problem of habit memory taking over — especially when parents are stressed and sleep-deprived and. . . well, read more here to understand what could happen to any of us:

An epidemic of children dying in hot cars: a tragedy that can be prevented by David Diamond, June 20, 2016

Oh, my goodness! I just read a couple of the comments on this article. One person commented that it was high time that we make use of technology which could make these tragedies a thing of the past. The other person was disgusted that they would be expected to foot the bill for a feature that they would never make use of just to make up for “negligent parents!”

That attitude makes my blood boil!

I’m glad to see that one manufacturer has put a solution into one of their new cars:

This year, one manufacturer, GMC, finally stepped up and included a reminder system in one of their 2017 models. Just one vehicle, the Acadia, in the entire United States being sold will have a reminder system. GM unveils new feature to prevent child deaths in hot cars

But what about the rest of their models? And what about the rest of the car companies? What kind of society are we that would think it is okay to remind ourselves (and our consumers) that we forgot to turn off our lights (so our battery doesn’t get worn down) but refuse to pay the cost to protect innocent lives from being tragically ended?

Is it going to take a federal mandate to require manufacturers to put the available technology into every car? Is this one more safety matter that the industry would successfully block and declare that it is “not cost effective” because too few lives would be saved compared to the costs?

Another situation of preventable tragedies.

What will be the outcome, America? Will we do what is right? Will we be compassionate?

Hot car deaths


“E-Class: Saving Lives with Fine Print”

Advice from Roger Lanctot for future of car safety technology:

Television spots for cars are becoming a little like pharmaceutical ads filled with fine print and warnings about side effects and clarifications.  Safety advocates are taking Mercedes to task for its latest TV ads for the 2017 E Class, claiming that the car company is misleading consumers into thinking the car can drive itself.  For me, fine print is the trade-off on the road to saving lives.

E-Class: Saving Lives with Fine Print

Another thing which I think that a Traffic Safety Ombudsman could initiate with a nationwide network of traffic safety community advocacy groups: hold community educational seminars to better equip drivers to make best use of the safety technology available — now and in the not-too-far future.

Tragic deaths

Where does underride prevention fit into ESV? I think it’s catch-up time for underride victims.

Experimental Safety Vehicle (ESV) is the designation for experimental concept cars which are used to test car safety ideas.

In 1973 the U.S. DOT announced its ESV project, the aim of which was to obtain safer vehicles by 1981.[1] A car produced by this effort was known as the Minicar RSV.

In 1991, the ESV abbreviation was backronymed to Enhanced Safety of Vehicles.[2]

Experimental Safety Vehicle From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

What about truck underride prevention? This issue seems to fall between the cracks. Has anyone developed an Experimental Safety Truck (EST) for testing of underride prevention best practices? I’m no expert on how that could work, but surely there is potential there. Without a doubt (in my mind), this Goliath could be taken on as a collaborative effort.

How much money, by the way, has been put into this kind of safety research? Especially compared to trucking industry profit.

Every time I bring up a possible solution to underride crashes, the problem of cost comes up as an obstacle to moving forward — either for the research or the implementation. “Don’t ask for that because then the industry will oppose it.” It is like running into a brick wall.

Oh, well, it is safer to run into a brick wall than the back of a truck, they say.

And then there is the faulty (in my opinion) process of making regulatory decisions based on a cost/benefit analysis that compares industry costs with the worth of lost or shattered human lives. So far, we have gotten ZERO response to our 20,000+ Vision Zero Petitions delivered to Washington, DC, in March 2016.

We asked for President Obama and Secretary Foxx to take some very specific steps to rectify that situation. No response.

I have also asked for help in determining what percentage of trucking industry profit has been devoted to underride research. I have an idea that the results of  such fact-finding might prove an embarrassment to them and might even give safety advocates a leg to stand on.

When I find out, I’d like to take a cue from former Senator Robert Kennedy and ask the trucking industry to stop whining about what they “can’t” do to fix the underride problem — because of how much it would cost them — and to stop wielding their unfair lobbying advantage to delay or block needed underride prevention technology.

After all, if you do the cost/benefit analysis math for truck side guards — which DOT intended to mandate for large trucks as far back as 1969 — the cost/”life saved” is not likely to be something for them to complain about.

Truck Underride Fatalities, 1994-2014

I think it’s catch-up time for underride victims.

CBA Victim Cost Benefit Analysis Victim

Two documents to compare:

Vision Zero Petition Book 3rd Edition

Underride Network want list for topics at IIHS Underride Roundtable

“Imp’t to emphasize that people should be ‘aware of the potential’ they have when using a car.”

Halifax cyclist dies after truck collision in Nova Scotia

The death of a 30-year-old Halifax cyclist in the Annapolis Valley is tragic, biking groups say, and highlights the need to better protect vulnerable riders.

Kings District RCMP said the man, dressed in full biking gear and riding a racing bike Monday afternoon, died in hospital after a collision with a pickup truck at the intersection of Ridge and Greenfield roads outside Wolfville. . .

Police said conditions were clear at the time, and the investigation is ongoing but charges are not expected against the female driver of the truck, who was not injured.

“The truck driver did nothing wrong, certainly obeying all rules of the road and traffic devices,” Const. Kelli Gaudet of Kings District RCMP said.

Zachary Steinman, Bicycle Nova Scotia vice president of road and Cyclocross competition, said while the driver may have done nothing wrong it’s always important to emphasize that people should be “aware of the potential” they have when using a car.

“A vehicle can do a lot more damage than someone riding a bicycle,” Steinman said.

Irreversible & Regrettable