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Volkswagen foundation funds joint proj­ect with saarland uni­ver­si­ty

New Collaborative Project on AI Decisions

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Portrait of Junior Professor Eva Schmidt © Private
Eva Schmidt is Junior Professor for Theoretical Philosophy at TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity.

How can we make sure that machines behave morally? This is a question that Junior Professor Eva Schmidt from TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity is exploring in a joint proj­ect with Saarland Uni­ver­sity. The Volkswagen Foun­da­tion is funding Schmidt’s re­search and that of a doctoral researcher with around €160,000.

Big data, digitalization, deep learning – new technologies raise new questions. How, for example, should an autonomous car “decide” when forced to choose whether to run someone over? Should it hit the pensioner rather than the teenager? The one has already lived their life, the other has their whole life ahead of him. Which decision in such a situation is the right one for the machine?

This is a question caught up in the friction between artificial intelligence (AI) and society. In the frame­work of its funding initiative Artificial In­tel­li­gence – Its Impact on Tomorrow’s Society, the Volkswagen Foun­da­tion has approved a total of around €12 million for cross-disciplinary and transnational re­search into the responsible further development of AI systems. In this context, the foundation is supporting eight inter­dis­ci­plin­ary and in­ter­na­tio­nal re­search alliances in the social and technical sciences. Re­searchers from, for example, law, linguistics, and social sciences as well as from computer science, medicine, philosophy, and cyber security have joined forces in the program. The projects are scheduled to run for three to four years. The one in Dort­mund will start in the late spring.

How can we understand decisions made by AI systems better?

Junior Professor Eva Schmidt from the In­sti­tute of Philosophy and Political Science at the Faculty of Human Sciences and Theology is working on it. She has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing this topic for quite some time: What opportunities does AI offer? Where do the risks lie? And more specifically: Why is it im­por­tant that we understand the decisions made by AI systems? How does the explainability of AI systems foster, for example, trust and res­pon­si­bi­li­ty?

In Schmidt’s proj­ect “Explainable Intelligent Systems (EIS)”, the following disciplines are working together: Computer science, philosophy, psychology, and law. The proj­ect is concerned with the explainability of AI-based decisions and thus with one of the key questions related to the use of AI systems in society. Involved in the proj­ect alongside Eva Schmidt from TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity are Junior Professor Lena Kästner, Professor Georg Borges, Professor Ulla Wessels, Dr. Markus Langer and Professor Holger Hermanns, all from Saarland Uni­ver­sity in Saarbrücken. “Among others, we’re looking at the overarching question: How can and should intelligent systems be designed in such a way that they deliver explainable recommendations?” says Eva Schmidt. She is assisted at TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity by Sara Mann, who will complete her doctoral degree in the frame­work of the proj­ect.

In the frame­work of her re­search work on explainable AI, Eva Schmidt has also lectured in Hannover, Zurich, and Cambridge as well as re­cent­ly online at the “Usability in Germany” con­fe­rence on the topic of “Autonomy and Justice in the Framework of Artificial In­tel­li­gence”. In collaboration with the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of In­tel­li­gence in Cambridge, TU Delft, and Leibniz Uni­ver­si­ty Hannover, the EIS proj­ect is organizing the workshop series “Issues in Explainable AI”. The Dort­mund workshop in the series is scheduled for autumn 2022.

Further in­for­mation on “Explainable Intelligent Systems”

Contact for further in­for­mation:

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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is “Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen” (closer to South Campus), and from B 1 / A 40 “Dort­mund-Dorstfeld” (closer to North Campus). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from North Campus to South Campus by car, there is the connection via Vo­gel­pothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at North Campus and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity has its own train station (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät”). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station (“Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof”) and Düsseldorf main station via the “Düsseldorf Airport Train Station” (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 20 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station “Stadtgarten”, usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At “Stadtgarten” you switch trains and get on line U42 towards “Hombruch”. Look out for the Station “An der Palmweide”. From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop “Dort­mund Kampstraße”. From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop “Dort­mund Wittener Straße”. Switch to bus line 447 and get off at “Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”.

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the uni­ver­si­ty campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of in­ter­na­tio­nal flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the uni­ver­si­ty station.

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity. There are two stations on North Campus. One (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”) is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the “Technologiepark” and (via South Campus) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at North Campus and offers a direct connection to South Campus every five minutes.

The facilities of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the uni­ver­si­ty are located in the adjacent “Technologiepark”.

Site Map of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity (Second Page in English).