Audi CEO Stadler speaks at UN congress in Geneva about artificial intelligence

beyond initiative
  • Prof. Stadler at the UN congress “AI for Good”: “In situations where an accident is unavoidable, we expect a decision from the autonomous car.”
  • The beyond initiative examines the ethical and legal questions of autonomous driving and the working world of the future

Audi CEO Prof. Rupert Stadler has spoken at a congress of the United Nations about the use of artificial intelligence for the benefit of humankind. In his keynote speech at the start of the “AI for Good Global Summit,” he stated that automated driving presents an opportunity to improve life significantly. He warned, however, against excessive expectations: “In situations where an accident is unavoidable, we expect a decision from the autonomous car. But a dilemma situation cannot be solved either by a human or by a machine.” Therefore, alongside legal issues, ethical questions about the use of the new technology also needed to be discussed, he added. With the beyond initiative, Stadler is now calling for such a discourse.

At the first “AI for Good Global Summit” in Geneva, the Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG said in front of UN experts: “We need a discourse in society that looks at the enormous potential of piloted and autonomous driving in relation to the ethical and legal questions.” Artificial intelligence (AI) is regarded by experts from science and industry as a key technology for piloted and autonomous driving. It assists the car in perceiving and interpreting its environment, and deriving decisions from this. But who is liable in the case of accidents, and how should the car driving autonomously behave in a situation of unavoidable danger? Prof. Stadler: “We take the concerns of the public seriously and are facing up to the challenges associated with this.”

In the last two years, the automobile company Audi has built up the interdisciplinary network beyond with internationally recognized experts in artificial intelligence from the fields of science and business. The initiative focuses on the social effects of artificial intelligence in the automobile and in the working world. Philosophers, psychologists, legal experts, computer scientists, and start-up entrepreneurs took part in the first events. At a workshop about the ethical and legal questions of autonomous driving, experts from Audi met with, among other participants, Iyad Rahwan and Kate Darling from the MIT Media Lab, Luciano Floridi from Oxford University and Bryant Walker Smith from the University of South Carolina. Through the presentation of the initiative at the AI for Good Global Summit, the beyond initiative now includes the public in the discussion. “The automobile industry cannot answer the ethical and legal questions of piloted and autonomous driving alone,” says Stadler: “Science, business, politicians, and society must work together.” As a next step, the initiative will therefore involve further multipliers and press ahead with research cooperations.

The second subject on which the beyond initiative focuses is the future of the working world in the age of AI. “We need a more differentiated understanding of how artificial intelligence is changing our working world,” demands Stadler. This relates to the basic mechanisms of the labor market, and equally to concrete projects in companies. “Our aim is a perfect collaboration of humans and machines,” Stadler emphasizes. The idea of modular assembly without an assembly line is an example of what this interaction could look like in a smart factory.

“Fundamentally we have to ensure that artificial intelligence is applied for the benefit of society,” said Stadler. “How artificial intelligence changes our lives is something that depends on all of us and on the way in which we use the potential of the new technologies.”

The organizers of the UN congress in Geneva are the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the agency at the United Nations that is responsible for information and communication technologies, and the XPRIZE Foundation, established by Peter Diamandis. At the three-day summit, for the first time, leading international experts are meeting to discuss the potential of artificial intelligence for solving global challenges.