In a new resolution, members of the European Parliament have proposed EU Commission rules governing robotics and artificial intelligence.

The proposed rules will focus on issues of liability, the impact of robots on the workforce, a code of ethical conduct for developers, and the establishment of a European Agency for robotics and artificial intelligence.

Liability issues are of growing concern, with MEPs pointing specifically to issues surrounding the growing market in self-driving cars. They have called for mandatory insurance and a supplementary fund to ensure compensation for victims of accidents involving autonomous vehicles.

In the resolution, MEPs also stated a concern that the growing adoption of robots in the workforce could cause labor market disruption and proposed a ‘robot tax’ on companies adopting robots to replace human workers. The robot tax would fund unemployment and retraining costs for workers displaced by robots; however, this proposal was rejected by the Parliament.

Rapporteur Mady Delvaux said “Although I am pleased that the plenary adopted my report on robotics, I am also disappointed that the right-wing coalition of ALDE, EPP and ECR refused to take account of possible negative consequences on the job market.”

“They rejected an open-minded and forward-looking debate and thus disregarded the concerns of our citizens.”

However, robotics manufacturers were pleased that the vote went against a robot tax, which could stunt innovation and slow the adoption of industrial robots.

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) noted, “The IFR believes that the idea to introduce a robot tax would have had a very negative impact on competitiveness and employment,” holding to the theory that adoption of robotics creates jobs by improving productivity.

Regulatory standards governing robots and artificial intelligence are currently being planned in several countries throughout the European Union. However, the Commission was encouraged to lead the EU in setting standards to ensure that the economic potential of new technologies is fully exploited, while maintaining safety and privacy standards.

The MEPs also requested that in the interest of safety, and of privacy, the Commission create a code of ethical conduct for researchers and developers of robotic technology. The code would be voluntary, used to provide guidelines for those involved with the development and use of robotics and AI technology to comply with set standards. They also proposed the creation of a European agency for robotics and artificial intelligence, whose primary purpose would be to supply public authorities with information regarding technical, ethical and regulatory issues in these fields.

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