The European Union is considering giving robots human rights under a plan to classify them as “electronic persons” and making their owners liable to pay taxes on their behalf, according to Reuters.
What’s been called a “robot revolution” in recent years has led to millions of robots of all types being built and utilised in almost every area of society – from robotic arms in the manufacturing industry, through autonomous vehicles in transportation, to domestic or service robots in commercial buildings and in the home.
No one knows exactly what the robot population on Earth is, but it’s likely to overtake segments of the human population in some countries within a decade or two. Moreover, a very large proportion of future robots are likely to be humanoids.
This massive growth of robotics and autonomous technologies has led the European Parliament’s committee on legal affairs to draft a resolution saying “that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations”.
The influential German engineers’ association VDMA, along with industrial giant Siemens, and robot maker Kuka, have all said the EU proposals are “too complicated and too early”, according to Reuters.
The EU committee also suggested the creation of a register for smart autonomous robots, which would link each one to funds established to cover its legal liabilities, says Reuters, which quotes Patrick Schwarzkopf, managing director of the VDMA’s robotic and automation department, as saying: “That we would create a legal framework with electronic persons – that’s something that could happen in 50 years but not in 10 years. We think it would be very bureaucratic and would stunt the development of robotics.”
Schwarzkopf was speaking to reporters at the Automatica robotics trade fair in Munich. He also said that a legal framework for self-driving cars would be needed soon.
Others in Europe are also against the idea of entirely new laws for robots. A legal expert at London law firm Bristows says the all the necessary laws to regulate robots are already in existence.
This article was first published on Industrial Updates, June 2016.