– The European Union's Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics is set to vote on proposing the first ever EU rules governing and classifying the field of robotics later on Thursday.
"The increased use of robotics and artificial intelligence has led to proposals for the first-ever EU rules to address the legal and ethical issues involved. The legal affairs committee votes Thursday on the plans, which look at the need to increase safety, introduce code of conduct and define who is liable for robots’ actions," the EU parliament's weekly plan reads.
The committee will consider a draft report, written in early 2016 by a member of parliament from Luxembourg, socialist alliance member Mady Delvaux, which includes proposals to discuss defining some robots as "electronic persons" and oblige artificial intelligence (AI) designers to follow rules such as preventing robots from harming humans and making robots act in the best interest of their human masters.
Concerns with AI have grown as computer capabilities expanded over the past three decades. The idea of a rational and intelligent machine appeared with the emergence of technologies such as voice recognition, whereby machines understand human speech, as well as strategic game capabilities and complex data analysis.
In April, Delvaux said the EU parliament's legal committee had set up a working group to look into legislation governing the AI field. The group was staffed with representatives from all parliamentary factions for a period of at least a year and Delvaux was tasked writing a draft report. The report would then be up for consideration by the entire committee before being passed for a vote by all members of parliament. Delvaux stressed that legislation is needed to address the issues of liability, data protection and hacking prevention, adding that this will be the first such initiative in the world.
The lawmaker's report calls on the commission to propose to parliament definitions, to be used across Europe, of various AI subcategories based on characteristics such as a robot's degree of autonomy based on its sensors, learning capabilities, its physical manifestation and its ability to adapt to new conditions.
The paper also proposes for new robots to undergo a registration procedure and asks the commission to fund AI projects and look into allocating resources for identifying the challenges associated with the rapid development in the field.
A set of ethical principles will also be looked into, including a design, production and use framework for engineers based on the principles on "beneficence, non-maleficence and autonomy." Principles enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights will also be considered, including human rights, dignity, equality, informed consent and privacy.
Lawmakers will then consider the creation of an EU agency on robotics with the aim of providing AI governance expertise to EU governments.
Specific rules for a series of various AI designations, such as autonomously piloted cars, medical care robots and artificial organ replacements, will be discussed.
Drones are to be considered separately, but only for civilian use and for security within the European Union.
In terms of liability, the report proposes to lower operators' responsibilities with increased AI autonomy while increasing the responsibility of those engaged in robot education. Issues of introducing insurance against potentially damaging AI actions will also be considered.
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