Dr Mahmood Hikmet

The trolley problem problem: Ethics in self-driving and autonomous vehicles

How does an autonomous vehicle decide who to collide with when faced with two unescapable options? This is the autonomous vehicle “trolley problem”. Often used as an example of how private companies are deciding who lives or dies in society – does the problem have an actual basis in engineering reality? This talk will look at the ethical dilemma of the trolley problem from an engineering and AI viewpoint and how the industry addresses it.


Dr Mahmood Hikmet is the head of research and development at Ohmio and HMI Technologies and is tasked with overseeing and synchronising R&D activity for the autonomous vehicle program and all other areas of research. As a science communicator, Mahmood’s focus is on bringing across technical information to non-technical stakeholders. He believes that a soft-skills approach is required to truly find the place for where technology might best serve people as opposed to pursuing technology for its own sake. Throughout his career, Mahmood has been closely involved with the direct development of IoT infrastructure for intelligent transportation and mobility. Most recently, Mahmood oversaw the development of the first 5G connected autonomous shuttle in the world in conjunction with Spark as well as the delivery of the largest 3D printed autonomous vehicle in the world, the Ohmio LIFT, to Christchurch Airport.