'Legal, Economic and Socio-Ethical Implications for the Next Generation of Robots’
Monday, May 6th, 2013, Karlsruhe, Germany

Workshop Overview

The objective of this workshop is to provide participants with a legal, economic and socio-ethical assessment of current robotics technologies. Technology development is triggered by both technological innovations (technology push) and the demand for technical solutions with respect to societal problems (demand pull). In order to design robots that are really useful for human beings, it is necessary to balance these two trends. As a matter of fact, the "usefulness" of a new technology is a relative concept, since it can mean different things to different people. Not only does it differ between individuals, but also from an individual to a societal perspective. For instance, the need for robotics in medical care from an individual perspective - be it the patient, its relatives or the care taker - is different than the need for a society to deal with an ageing population in face of a decreasing number of people taking over jobs in care taking and the health care system having to provide adequate health services in this light. However, in order to be useful robots have to comply also with legal regulations. Indeed, the situation concerning robotics and law is characterized by many uncertainties and in few cases by legal gaps. What are the main critical issues in law in current and future robotics? Which of the existing laws can be used to regulate current robotics technologies? For which cases do we need new legal regulations? What are the most suitable methods of regulation? What are the necessary political steps for changing the law? Who can and has to undertake these steps? These and many other questions at the crossroads of law, ethics, economy and politics work sciences will be addressed during the workshop by robotics engineers, legal experts, economists, ethicists, social scientists and policy makers. The workshop will be organized in interactive sessions in which a multidisciplinary group of invited speakers will present and discuss their researches, perspectives and possible solutions.
The workshop is partially supported by the FP7 EU funded project RoboLaw (FP7-SiS- 289092) in collaboration with the Research Centre Robot-Law, University of Wuerzburg (Germany), the European Centre for Law, Science and New Technologies of the University of Pavia (Italy), and the research group on Technology Assessment of Service Robotics of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany).

Motivations and objectives

In the last decades, impressive technological achievements have been accomplished as regards to “autonomous” robots. Reliable systems for navigation, obstacle avoidance, path following, and localisation have been successfully integrated in several kinds of robotic platforms. At the same time, the latest advances in the field of human-robot interaction, safety and dependability have brought robots and human beings as closer as ever. These two trends have given birth to a new generation of robots, which are characterized by coexistence and interaction with human beings in partially or non structured and uncontrolled environments. The workshop aims at analysing and critically discussing the ethical, legal and social issues (ELSi) related to robotics applications. On the one hand, non-technological assessment of robotics technologies is necessary in order to develop robots that are really useful to human beings; on the other hand, regulations and guidelines are necessary for policymakers and governmental bodies in order to facilitate the integration of robots in societies and also for robot manufacturers, since they play a fundamental role in the design and industrialization of robots. However, legal liability, insurance, road traffic classification, and privacy, to name just a few, are still open issues which may hinder the development and diffusion of robotic applications in the next future. Regulations and standards are also needed to protect users from the risks and dangers related to new technologies and therefore markets and industrial needs should be balanced with users and societal interests. Drawing on the contributions of an interdisciplinary group of outstanding researchers and experts in the legal, industrial and robotics fields, the workshop aims at providing an updated overview on the state of robotics and law, highlighting guidelines and suggestions as to how to overcome some of non-technological – particularly legal - challenges facing robotics.