The legal status of robots is under review. As robots become more autonomous and less reliant on humans for immediate guidance, the less owners or manufacturers can be held legally accountable for the machines’ actions. The proposed European law focuses on managing this, including proposing an advisory code of conduct for robotics engineers, aimed at guiding the ethical design, production and use of robots.
Cranfield University has experience in autonomy, autonomous systems and their safe integration with humans, which Mayer wanted to access, to inform her more fully about surrounding issues ahead of the vote.
The MEP met with Professor Antonios Tsourdos, head of the Centre for Autonomous and Cyber-Physical Systems, and Dr Sarah Fletcher, senior research fellow in Industrial Psychology and Human Factors, who shared recent technological advances and developed thinking around human/robot interaction. Mayer was also shown Cranfield’s Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles (UAV) laboratory, used for UAV flight tests and the Intelligent Automation Laboratory where human/robot collaborative working is researched.
The planned European law would: Create a European agency for robotics and artificial intelligence; Set a legal definition of “smart autonomous robots”, with a system of registration for the most advanced of them; Propose an advisory code of conduct for robotics engineers, aimed at guiding the ethical design, production and use of robots; And set a new mandatory insurance scheme for companies to cover any damage caused by their robots.
Mayer said: “As the technology surrounding robotics advances, it is important that legislation keeps up, that is why I am so pleased to have been invited to Cranfield University to see the cutting-edge of robotic design and talk to the experts in this field.”