In the digital age, the vision of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is vibrant. Research is being conducted worldwide to integrate AVs into our everyday lives in the future, spending considerable amounts of money in the development process. Actors from both engineering as well as social sciences are involved in this research, with technical disciplines strongly dominating. In addition to perceived progress of numerous newly developed technologies such as AVs, challenges should also be referred to. According to research analysis, the transferability of autonomous cars to the military sphere seems to be frequently forgotten or ignored (dual-use). Generally, autonomous vehicles or developments derived from civilian research are deemed to have a military applicability, even though the transmission often does not appear to be identifiable at first glance. Technical peace and conflict research examines which technological aspects for autonomous driving may be applied in the military sector, and which developments should therefore potentially be monitored more closely by the research community and policy makers.

Since not much research has been conducted in Germany on the potential deployment of autonomous driving development steps into military domains, 25 semi-structured interviews with developers and researchers and actors involved in the field, were conducted in 2020. Consequently, two papers were derived from the data obtained.

Sebastian Schwartz, Laura Guntrum, Christian Reuter (2022)
Vision or Threat – Awareness for Dual-Use in the Development of Autonomous Driving
IEEE Transactions on Technology and Society .

  • The first paper identifies that the majority of respondents interviewed were aware of general existing dual-use debates,….
  • …however, few had reflected about dual-use issues regarding a possible transfer of their own development processes in the context of autonomous driving to military applications, intensively.
  • One reason is the small-scale nature of research, another is the complexity of the field, which enables the engineer’s alienation from their responsibility for the artefacts’ use.
  • Moreover, it has become clear that hardly any conversations among colleagues occur about possible misuse and that no standardized policy guidelines exist, which provide information about possible risk. To raise dual-use awareness, scientific contributions, risk education, and interdisciplinary discussions are essential.

Laura Guntrum, Sebastian Schwartz, Christian Reuter (2022)
Dual-Use Technologies in the Context of Autonomous Driving – An Empirical Case Study from Germany
Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik (ZfAS) .

  • The second paper identifies that several developments from civilian research on AD can potentially be, or are already being, applied in the military sector.
  • Although it seems difficult for some to imagine a transferability of their own research, the majority of respondents (n=24) identified at least one technology from autonomous driving where they could envision a concrete transfer from the civilian sector to the military.
  • Study participants indicated that sensors and environmental perception are most easily transferable from the civilian to the military sector. It is crucial to determine object location in a precise way and to ensure that a correct target can be detected and identified. Furthermore, some stated that algorithms, AI, and actuator technology could also be potentially transferable from the civilian to the military domain.
  • Research and development budgets in the civilian sphere will lead to cheaper sensors and off-the-shelf solutions, which consequently will lower the cost for more sophisticated military applications or solutions.

Overall, it seems that issues in the development of AVs are currently not in the focus of research. Therefore, further research could be conducted in this areas and awareness raising measures shall be initiated in the different development processes. Furthermore, the transfer to the military sector requieres critical examination and an increased monitoring.


This research work has been funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) in the Regional Research Center “Transformations of Political Violence” (TraCe) (01UG2203E) and by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Hessian Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts within their joint support of the National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity ATHENE.

Vision or Threat? – PEASEC publishes study on the Awareness for Dual-Use in the Development of Autonomous Driving in IEEE Trans. Tech.+Soc.