The European Parliament has urged for the adoption of EU-wide rules that determine the use of robots and artificial intelligence and guarantee a standard of safety and security.
A draft report by the European Parliament outlining the legal framework to robotics-related issues such as liability, safety and changes in the labour market, was approved last Thursday in a 17-2 vote, with two abstentions.
Among the draft proposals is the possibility of creating a specific legal status of “electronic persons” for the most sophisticated autonomous robots. The goal is to clarify responsibility in case of damages caused by robots.
The Committee on Legal Affairs also examined whether robots should have rights, namely when it comes to intellectual property for copyrightable works that have been produced by computers or robots.
“A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics”, said the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and report’s author Mady Delvaux. “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”.
MEPs stress that such rules are necessary not only to fully exploit the economic potential of robotics and AI but also to guarantee the safety and security of EU citizens.
The committee has therefore proposed the creation of a European agency for robotics and AI to supply public authorities with technical, ethical and regulatory expertise.
They also propose an advisory code of conduct to engineers and designers for the development, programming and use of robots and AI. The aim is to ensure that robots would operate according to the law and comply with safety and ethical standards.
One of this code’s recommendations, for example, is that robot designers should include “kill” switches so that robots can be turned off in emergencies.
In the draft report, MPES also pay attention to the future of autonomous vehicles, considering that “the automotive sector is in urgent need of European and global rules”. The board calls for an obligatory insurance scheme and a fund to ensure victims are fully compensated in cases of accidents caused by self-driving cars.
The development of robotics 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, including new employment models and the viability of the current tax and social system for robotics.
The next step now is that the European Commission (EU’s executive arm) presents a legislative proposal. It is not obliged to do so but must state its reasons if it refuses.
The full house will vote on the draft proposals in February, which will need to be approved by absolute majority.