The United States is one of the few countries to enact robot-specific laws and regulations (for robot cars and drones). It is also home to several advanced robotics research groups and some cutting-edge robotics companies.
By all reasonable standards one would expect the U.S. to be right at the top of our list of countries in terms of awareness and the maturity of the debate around robot law.
Surprisingly, this is not the case.
Meaningful discussion about broad robotics-related legislation and regulation is still in its infancy, says Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law and former research director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.
?There’s no systematic support from the federal governments or state governments to tackle the social, ethical, and legal issues around robotics. I wish there was,? says Calo.
?Instead you have to rely on industry and individuals and institutions like Stanford Law School to be the forum for discussing these issues. It’s a form of ‘institutional self-help,’ if you will.?
Four U.S. federal agencies announced a joint solicitation to fund robotics research under the National Science Foundation-supported National Robotics Initiative in mid-September, with ethics featuring (albeit in a very minor role) in the accompanying documents.
?It’s important, of course, to get the technology right, but in a contemporary society it’s also important to get the legal and policy issues right. My hope is that the National Science Foundation will support this kind of examination going forward,? says Calo.
The ?number one? challenge facing U.S. legislators and policy makers is figuring out how to manage liability, says Calo.
?We also need to work out how the robotics industry can avoid the pitfalls of the software and internet industries that have experienced problems with intellectual property issues,? warns Calo.
The U.S. should create pathways for robotic innovations to make it through regulatory mechanisms, such as the FDA, that are not necessarily well suited to purpose.
?It’s not that these issues are not on institutional radars, it’s just not getting the massive support that you might see elsewhere,? says Calo.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the the U.S., however. While the discussion about robotics regulation and legislation may be less advanced than in other regions, discussions don’t necessarily translate into effective policy.
?One thing you might say about the American experience is that we may be slow to act but when we act we act more decisively,? says Calo, citing the swift development of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which offers immunity from liability to website operators publishing content provided by others, a principle he would like to see extended to robotics manufacturers.
?Just talking about something doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be helpful policy outcomes. But talking about it is certainly the first step.?
U.S. preparedness is low, but will legislators act decisively when the time comes? Governmental support to encourage nationwide debate about these issues would be a start.
Get an in-depth look at the course of action that each of these five world leaders is taking:
- 5.China : The lack of interest in robot-related legislation and regulation in China is a problem that must be urgently addressed.
- 3.European Union: RoboLaw is a $1.9 million European Commission-funded project designed to prepare the way for the creation of legal and ethical guidelines.
- 2.South Korea: The Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) is the official body responsible for overseeing legislation and regulation regarding robotics.
- 1.Japan: Ethical and emotional barriers against new robots are not high in Japan, but people demand a high level of safety for those new technologies.
See related: Robots and the Law: Introduction Humankind?s new tool: who gets the blame when one screws up?
See related: Robot Law: A Global Perspective: First of a four-part series on how world regulators are bringing legislative and regulatory guidance to the robotics industry
Do you think governments and regulators in your country are doing enough to provide governance for robotic technology? Know of other legistlative and regulatory initiatives that you would like to see included in future coverage? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More