For the past year and a half, the European Union has been quite active in the sphere of artificial intelligence and autonomous robotics. The EU is aware of the growing importance of these technologies and their role in economic and social development. At the same time, the EU aims to approach the whole issue in a meaningful way to enable safe development of AI and robotics as well as gaining a worldwide competitive advantage in this field. The aim of this post is to briefly outline several EU activities reacting to latest technological developments.
On 16 February 2017, the European Parliament issued a resolution with recommendations titled “Civil Law Rules on Robotics“. In this document the European Parliament outlined the main ethical and legal problems related to Artificial Intelligence and robotics. The European Parliament namely asked for creation of “common Union definitions of cyber physical systems, autonomous systems, smart autonomous robots and their subcategories”. Furthermore, the European Parliament proposed measures such as establishing a European Agency for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, obligatory registration of advanced robots, or further works on internationally harmonised technical standards. The document mentions issues related to intellectual property protection, or sharing and exchange of data including personal data. Questions of civil liability are described in detail. The document proposes to consider two approaches – a strict liability approach or a risk management approach. An obligatory insurance scheme for robots is proposed. The document also introduces a controversial proposal of creating a status of electronic person for the most sophisticated robots. The Annex of the document contains among others a Code of Ethical Conduct for Robotics Engineers, a Code for Research Ethics Committees, a License for Designers, and a License for Users.
On 31 August 2018, the European Economic and Social Committee published in Official Journal of the EU its opinion “Artificial intelligence — The consequences of artificial intelligence on the (digital) single market, production, consumption, employment and society“. In this opinion, the EESC defines 11 areas that are significantly influenced by artificial intelligence: “ethics; safety; privacy; transparency and accountability; work; education and skills; (in)equality and inclusiveness; law and regulations; governance and democracy; warfare; superintelligence“. The EESC calls for creation of both ethical rules and technical standardization system as well as for a thorough evaluation of current European laws and regulations. The EU should adopt an approach of human in command, i. e. leaving the control over the technology in the hands of a human. At the same time the EESC highlights the need to continuously monitor the research and development in this field in order for the society to be able to adapt to disruptive technologies swiftly and appropriately.
On 10 April 2018, 24 EU Member States and the Kingdom of Norway signed a declaration “Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence“. In this declaration the states agreed to “work towards a comprehensive and integrated European approach on AI to increase the EU’s competitiveness, attractiveness and excellence in R&D in AI“, to review and potentially modernise national policies, to support of discussion among stakeholders, Member States and public bodies, including the Commission, to increase investments in R&D in this sphere including supporting research centres and establishment of Digital Innovation Hubs, to exchange data and information including information on ethical and legal approaches or an impact on employment, as well as to adopt and preserve human-centered approach in the development of AI.
on 25 April 2018, the European Commission issued a long awaited document titled Communication Artificial Intelligence for Europe. In this document the Commission stresses out the importance of adopting more proactive approach to AI. The EU should primarily focus on public and private investments, development of own solutions, introduction of intelligent systems within small and medium enterprises as well as to public administration, support of testing and experimantation, or making data available. The Commission alsohighlights the importance of “ensuring an appropriate ethical and legal framework“. This framework should be primarily based on the protection of fundamental human rights and should lead to increase of trustworthiness of systems equipped with AI. The first goal is, therefore, to create ethical guidelines that “will address issues such as the future of work, fairness, safety, security, social inclusion and algorithmic transparency“. At the same time, in the near future the EU should address questions related to safety and liability. An expert group will be set up in order to assess these questions. The Commission also focuses on the consumer protection, possibilities of consumers to control transactions related to them and their rights to information. The document proclaims that the aim of the EU is “to become a leader in the AI revolution” and to “place the power of AI at the service of human progress“.
The above mentioned document was accompanied by a Commission Staff Working Document Liability for emerging digital technologies. This document provides an initial overview of challenges in the sphere of liability posed by the emerging digital technologies including the Internet of Things, autonomous self-learning systems, or robots equipped with AI. The document describes specific characteristics of these technologies, such as a high complexity of systems, mutual interdependence of individual parts of a system, autonomy and the ability to learn, importance of data for the system operation, or the impact of updates on system functioning. The document illustrates particular problems that may arise in various scenarios. The main questions to be addressed in the future with regard to product liability concern the definition of a product and a producer, the very notion of a product defect, burden of proof, or the notion of damages including privacy infringement. There are, however, also question that need to be examined from a wider perspective, such as the very concept of liability, reasonable standard of care, cybersecurity, or redress between various actors. The European Commission, therefore, intends to set up a new expert group on liability that should assess whether it is necessary to adopt new legislation on the EU level.