The European Parliament (EP) is the first legal institution in the world to have initiated work of a law on robots and artificial intelligence (AI). It refers in particular to robots with the capacity to be trained and make decisions independently. Considering the economic potential of the revolution for the upcoming 10-15 years, the EP wants to ensure safety of users.

In its resolution handed down last week to the European Commission (EC), the EP recommended:

  • Responsibility: to draw up the EU legal framework of civil liability for damage caused by robots, particularly by unmanned vehicles. A compensation fund would be established in addition to the obligatory insurance scheme. By contributing to the said fund a manufacturer, programmer or owner would be able to limit its liability. The rules would also specify who should be finally held liable for given damage;
  • Autonomous vehicles: to ensure the cross-border use of autonomous vehicles; to adjust the law with respect to road accidents; to ensure uniform testing criteria in real environment (on the roads); to support the development of independent computer and communication infrastructure; to complete the development of the European satellite navigation programmes Galileo and EGNOS;
  • Agency for robotics: to set up a European agency for robotics and AI and register certain robots; to verify the introduction of an obligatory identification and tracking system for drones;
  • Privacy: to guarantee data and privacy safety; to ensure protection against hacking; to impose the requirement to provide explicit consent to process personal data;
  • Intellectual property: to ensure the interoperability of robots that interact with each other; to introduce uniform technical standards; the acceptance of reverse-engineering; if necessary, to ensure access to source codes and construction details to investigate causes of accidents; use of “black boxes” for the same purpose;
  • E-personality: in the long-term, to consider granting “electronic” personality to robots who make decisions independently and define their liability for damages;
  • Labor market: to assess the impact of the revolution on the labor market – the creation and loss of jobs (e.g. truck drivers);
  • Code of ethical conduct: to adopt a code of ethical conduct for the sector’s researchers and designers, including ensuring that a human being has final control over intelligent robots (e.g. by emergency kill switches).

Citizens and organizations may express their views on the future of robotics and AI as part of public consultations which are to be held until the end of April (link here).

The EC may draw up a Directive. If, however, the EC does not accept the stance presented by the EP, the EC is required to justify its refusal.

The EP resolution of 16 February 2017 with recommendations to the EC on Civil Law Rules on Robotics (2015/2103(INL)) can be found here.