October 19, 2012      

The lack of interest in robot-related legislation and regulation in China is a problem that must be urgently addressed, says Yueh-Hsuan Weng, chief researcher at Peking University’s Internet Law Center. Weng’s research involves the interface between advanced technology and law, including AI & Law, Robot Legal Studies, Legal Informatics, Computational Social Sciences and Intellectual Property Management.

“China has a population of 1.4 billion, so many Chinese don’t think their society needs humanoid robots or service robots to replace humans. But service robots are only one application of robot technology,” says Weng, an expert on the intersection of emerging robotics technologies and the law.

Networked robotics, automated logistic systems, medical robots, and intelligent prostheses present opportunities–and potential legal issues–for Chinese society and policy makers, says Weng, but interest in legislation is limited.

Nevertheless, a combination of domestic and international factors is set to force Chinese policy makers to confront these issues.

“In the 40 year history of industrial robots, just 1.4 million robots have been used. The Foxconn order for one million industrial robots will almost double that number. China urgently needs robot laws to tackle the serious social problems that will arise from labor replacement,” explains Weng,

The widespread use of autonomous lethal weapons by the United States will also force Chinese authorities to seriously consider the legal implications of their use, says Weng

One of the leading contributors to the international discussion about robotics-related law and regulation, Weng is currently visiting the Humanoid Robotics Institute, in Waseda University, Japan, where he is exploring the potential use of airline industry-like “black box” technology in robots to tackle legal liability issues. He is also involved in “The Internet of Things and Automation: Legislation and Policy Research”–a project investigating privacy issues created by domestic robots and liability issues surrounding intelligent transport and UAVs.

Chinese efforts in this space are piecemeal and heavily dependent on small groups of dedicated researchers. Future progress could hinge on what the Chinese can take from their participation in initiatives such as the European RoboLaw project (see below) and the Japan-China-Korea joint workshops on robotics.

Get an in-depth look at the course of action that each of these five world leaders is taking:

4.United States: The United States is one of the few countries to enact robot-specific laws and regulations.

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: [email protected]