MEP uses Dublin speech to call for EU to lead on robotics and AI

Guidance from EU ‘good but not enough’, Luxembourg MEP Mady Devaux says

MEP Mady Delvaux warned that the rest of the world would not wait to be led by Europe on robotics and AI. Photograph: Niall Matthews/IIEA

MEP Mady Delvaux warned that the rest of the world would not wait to be led by Europe on robotics and AI. Photograph: Niall Matthews/IIEA

 

An MEP, who has authored a report calling for European Union-wide legislation to regulate the rise of robots, used a talk in Dublin last week to renew her call for the European Commission to take the lead on what she calls the “crucial challenge of our time”.

Appearing at the Institute of International and European Affairs last Friday, Mady Delvaux, chair of the commission’s working group on robotics, said recent guidance from the EU outlining its plan for robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) was “good but not enough”.

Ms Delvaux, an MEP from Luxembourg, last year wrote a report for the European Parliament on civil law and robotics. In it she recommended the establishment of an EU agency for robotics and AI, an advisory code of conduct for robotics engineers and a new reporting structure to take account of robotics and AI for the purposes of taxation.

Another recommendation, and one that has caused a great deal of controversy, was a call to consider granting self-learning robots “electronic personalities” status enabling them to be insured and held liable for damages if they caused damage to people or property.

Research programme

The EU is home to the world’s largest civilian research and innovation programme for robotics and AI – it has a budget of up to €700 million for the period 2014 to 2020, bolstered by an extra €2.1 billion of investment committed by the European robotics industry.

However, Ms Delvaux has consistently said that current legislation is insufficient to deal with many of the complex issues surrounding self-learning machines.

Speaking to The Irish Times while in Dublin, she said the recent guidance from the EU, while a step in the right direction, was not sufficient to mark Europe out as a leader in robotics and AI.

“There are a lot of opportunities in this space but also a lot of challenges we must face. These include issues surrounding safety and security, data protection and privacy, harmonisation of legislation, liability and societal change,” Ms Delvaux said.

“I believe robotics and artificial intelligence will impact on all aspects of our lives, including jobs and so we must be properly prepared for it, but as of now there is no real action forthcoming on this,” she added.

Ms Delvaux warned that the rest of the world would not wait to be led by Europe on robotics and AI.

“If we don’t decide how we want to shape our future, it is highly likely that China and the US will decide for us, leaving the EU as simply a follower,” she said.