The European Union is home to the world’s third largest robotics market (Germany) and has invested heavily in the future of its robotics industry, including research into the legal and ethical questions raised by emerging robotics.
Foremost among these research efforts is RoboLaw, a $1.9 million, European Commission-funded project designed to prepare the way for the creation of legal and ethical guidelines governing robotic systems and emerging cyborg technologies.
The RoboLaw consortium includes experts from engineering, law, technology regulation, philosophy, and human enhancement. Their mission is to create a “White Paper on Regulating Robotics” containing guidelines and recommendations for the European Commission by 2014.
The topics under investigation include “soft” vs “hard” law approaches to robot governance, privacy issues and potential legal and ethical issues arising from the increasing use of care robots, implanted medical, and future cognitive enhancement devices.
“Ethical, legal, and social issues were present in other projects but the entire RoboLaw project is dedicated to dealing with these issues. Other projects exist, but this is the only one in Europe with such a broad scope,” says RoboLaw project manager, Pericle Salvini from the Scuola Superiore Sant Anna, Italy.
Indeed, it may the only project in the world with such a scope, since its supporting external networks includes experts from Japan, China, South Korea, and the United States.
“It’s very difficult to say when robotic-specific legislation might be enacted in Europe. But it seems to be moving very fast. Not only with the RoboLaw project, but also from the point of view of new ISO safety standards, which are also moving on a very fast track,” says Salvini.
With a white paper on legal and ethical matters soon to be presented to the European Parliament, the region is clearly committed to confronting legal and ethical issues. If Europe acts quickly on the recommendations of the RoboLaw consortium, it could rapidly become the world-leader in the area of robot regulation.
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.
4.United States: The United States is one of the few countries to enact robot-specific laws and regulations.
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
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