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Parliamentary questions
15 November 2013
E-011289/2013
Answer given by Ms. Kroes on behalf of the Commission

The technology is not yet ready to deliver the degree of autonomy to grant personality or legal status to robots. However the relevant ethical, legal and societal issues linked to future systems, endowed with more intelligence and autonomy, are seriously taken into account by the robotics and artificial cognitive systems community.

Granting robots a legal personality is an academic discussion at the moment, and the Commission is funding activities adressing legal issues related to robotics (e.g. RoboLaw; see report: http://www.unipv-lawtech.eu/files/euRobotics-legal-issues-in-robotics-DRAFT_6j6ryjyp.pdf).

Fully autonomous systems are not a reality now. There are clear worldwide trends indicating that we could see such systems in the future. Developing policy options and understanding the legal consequences of fully autonomous systems is thus important preparation for the future.

In the 7th Framework Programme for Research, there have been robotics projects for more than EUR 500 million, which makes it the biggest civilian robotics R&D programme. Several projects dedicate resources to legal and ethical analysis.

The EU-funded PETROBOT project aims to avoid the need for human operators to be present in harsh environments by sending a remotely operated robot. A human would however still perform the higher level control with better and safer working conditions. The robot will not be fully autonomous. Even if some low-level tasks can be executed autonomously, the goal is not to replace humans, but to assist them. Many tasks are dull, dangerous and dirty, and robots, like other machines, can make the job of humans easier.

OJ C 216, 09/07/2014
Last updated: 18 November 2013Legal notice