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MEPs call for code of ethics for robots

MEPs call for code of ethics for robots

Photo by NASA

(BRUSSELS) - MEPs called Thursday for EU-wide rules for the fast-evolving field of robotics, to settle issues such as compliance with ethical standards and liability for accidents involving driverless cars.

With a growing number of areas of our daily lives increasingly affected by robotics, the European Parliament's rapporteur Mady Delvaux MEP said the EU needed to take a lead on regulating robots and artificial intelligence: " In order to address this reality and to ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework."

The resolution is based on a report prepared by a parliamentary working group on legal questions related to the development of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, established in January 2015.

EU-wide rules are needed to fully exploit the economic potential of robotics and artificial intelligence, the MEPs stress, as well as to guarantee a standard level of safety and security.

The danger, the report argues, was that the EU might be forced to follow regulatory standards,set by third states.

The MEPs are urging the Commission to consider creating a European agency for robotics and artificial intelligence to supply public authorities with technical, ethical and regulatory expertise.

They also propose a voluntary ethical conduct code to regulate who would be accountable for the social, environmental and human health impacts of robotics and ensure that they operate in accordance with legal, safety and ethical standards.

For example, this code should recommend that robot designers include 'kill switches' so that robots can be turned off in emergencies, they add.

On liability, the MEPs point to self-driving cars as an area where harmonised rules are especially urgently needed. They call for an obligatory insurance scheme and a fund to ensure victims are fully compensated in cases of accidents caused by driverless cars.

In the long-term, the possibility of creating a specific legal status of "electronic persons" for the most sophisticated autonomous robots, so as to clarify responsibility in cases of damage, should also be considered, MEPs say.

The development of robotics, say the MEPs, could also result in big societal changes, including the creation and loss of jobs in certain fields, says the text. It urges the Commission to follow these trends closely and advocates on new employment models and the viability of the current tax and social system for robotics.

The report invites the Commission to present a legislative proposal. It is not obliged to do so, but must state its reasons if it refuses.

The Parliament's full house is now due to vote on the draft proposals in February, which will need to be approved by absolute majority according to the legislative initiative procedure.

Further information, European Parliament

Procedure file on civil law rules on robotics

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