Sign In

Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

As Robots Become More Common, Stanford Experts Consider the Legal Challenges

View as: Print Mobile App Share:
M. Ryan Calo of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society

"We're going to need to think about how to immunize manufacturers from lawsuits in appropriate circumstances. If we don't do that, we're going to move too slowly in development," says M. Ryan Calo, a residential fellow at Stanford Law School's Center for

Credit: L.A. Cicero / Stanford

Stanford University researchers are exploring the potential legal ramifications of the growing use of robots in society. "I worry that in the absence of some good, upfront thought about the question of liability, we'll have some high-profile cases that will turn the public against robots or chill innovation and make it less likely for engineers to go into the field and less likely for capital to flow in the area," says Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society residential fellow M. Ryan Calo. He says a flood of lawsuits could cause the United States to fall behind other countries that also are at the front of personal robot development, which could significantly limit the country in a field that is expected to exceed $5 billion in annual sales by 2015.

Calo and his Stanford colleagues are some of the first in the U.S. to contemplate the potential legal questions that will emerge as robotics continue to advance, which go well beyond claims of personal injury and property damage. For example, robots use cameras and sensors to navigate, and because they run on software they are susceptible to hacking, so a robot designed to clean a house could potentially be turned into a spy, vandal, or thief.

Issues surrounding humans' emotional attachment to robots also may arise, including the possibility of someone suing for the right to marry a robot. Already, people have demonstrated strong emotional attachments to robots that do not even look like people, such as the vacuum robot Roomba and robots used to disarm roadside bombs in Iraq.

View a video of M. Ryan Calo discussing the legal ramifications of a possible injury caused by a robot.

From Stanford Report (CA)
View Full Article


Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


No entries found

Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account