Give robots ‘personhood’ status, EU committee argues
Proposed rules for robots and AI in Europe include a push for a general basic income for humans, and ‘human rights’ for robots
By Alex Hern
Jan 12 2017
The European parliament has urged the drafting of a set of regulations to govern the use and creation of robots and artificial intelligence, including a form of “electronic personhood” to ensure rights and responsibilities for the most capable AI.
In a 17-2 vote, with two abstentions, the parliament’s legal affairs committee passed the report, which outlines one possible framework for regulation.
“A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics,” said the report’s author, Luxembourgish MEP Mady Delvaux. “In order to address this reality and to ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework”.
The proposed legal status for robots would be analogous to corporate personhood, which allows firms to take part in legal cases both as the plaintiff and respondent. “It is similar to what we now have for companies, but it is not for tomorrow,” said Delvaux. “What we need now is to create a legal framework for the robots that are currently on the market or will become available over the next 10 to 15 years.”
The broad report identifies a number of areas in need of specific oversight from the European Union, including:
• The creation of a European agency for robotics and AI;
• A legal definition of “smart autonomous robots”, with a system of registration of the most advanced of them;
• An advisory code of conduct for robotics engineers aimed at guiding the ethical design, production and use of robots;
• A new reporting structure for companies requiring them to report the contribution of robotics and AI to the economic results of a company for the purpose of taxation and social security contributions
• A new mandatory insurance scheme for companies to cover damage caused by their robots.
The report also takes special interest in the future of autonomous vehicles, arguing that self-driving cars are “in most urgent need of European and global rules”. “Fragmented regulatory approaches would hinder implementation and jeopardise European competitiveness,” it continues.