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Make way for the wealthy? Autonomous vehicles, markets in mobility, and social justice

Time: Tue 2021-04-13 08.30 - 09.30


Participating: Prof. Robert Sparrow & Dr Mark Howard

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Portrait of Professor Robert Sparrow and Dr Mark Howard
Prof. Robert Sparrow and Dr Mark Howard

Speaker: Prof. Robert Sparrow & Dr Mark Howard
Moderator: Erik Almlöf

The development of a “mobility as a service” model for accessing urban transport via autonomous vehicles may be expected to have far-reaching implications for the economics of road transport. The advances of autonomous technology envision taxi fleets that can pick you up at your home at a fraction of today's cost of a taxi ride. We no longer need to buy a car which sits unused 95% of the time and kids without a driver's license don't need their parents to chauffeur them to soccer practice. In particular, it would offer a new opportunity to price access to the roads in accordance with the principles of the free market. Once people are paying for mobility on the roads on a “per trip” basis, it will be possible to offer different levels of access —and service —at different prices. According to hegemonic ideas in the transport planning and economics literature the introduction of such a “market in mobility” would be an economically efficient way of allocating access to the scarce good of space on the roads. But will this type of services only have benefits? Or could it be that a pay-as-you-can service would lead to a less equal society.

To increase our understanding of these kinds of services and their implications on society, we would like to invite Prof. Robert Sparrow and Dr. Mark Howard, who in their recent paper in Mobilities, “Make way for the wealthy? Autonomous vehicles, markets in mobility, and social justice” draw attention to a number of ethical and political challenges to the appropriateness of the use of such a pricing mechanism in the context of urban mobility.

Professor Robert Sparrow

BA (Hons) (Melb.), PhD (A.N.U.)

Rob Sparrow is a Professor in the Philosophy Programanda Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science at Monash University, where he works on ethical issues raised by new technologies. He is a co-chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Robot Ethics and was one of the founding members of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.

Dr Mark Howard

Mark Howard is a Research Fellow with the Philosophy program at Monash University, part of an Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electro materials Science in the research field of Ethics, Policy and Public Engagement. Specialising in political philosophy, applied ethics and social informatics, Mark’s research focuses on the social, political, and ethical impact of autonomous technology in transportation, healthcare and agriculture.