I fully agree with the conclusion of the Open letter affirming that the EU must create a virtuous framework for Robotics and AI keeping the protection of citizens at the heart of all EU legal provisions.
I recall that the report does not recommend the creation of a legal status but only asks the Commission to explore, analyse and consider the implications of all possible legal solutions when carrying out an impact assessment.
Concerning the liability issues, I’m happy that the debate is launched. However, I regret that the debate only focuses on the possibility of creating a legal status for sophisticated and autonomous robots in the long term. Indeed, this proposal was made among others (6 proposals) and ONLY in the context of liability issues.
The goal is not to grant human status and rights to robots. A robot is a machine and will never be considered as a human. In order to ensure compensation to victims, some experts proposed to study the possibility of granting a legal status functioning a little bit like the status of companies in case an accident with a robot occurs and the autonomy of the robot does not permit to held a person liable.
It was not my preference but I did not want to exclude an idea heard in different hearings during the Working Group on Robotics of the European Parliament. I think that we should study and explore all possibilities in a public debate to choose which future we want.
In order to minimize the suspense, my preference goes so far on the risk-based management approach (the person liable is the person who was best placed to prevent the risk, paragraph 53 of the report) and the compulsory insurance scheme. But I don’t pretend to have the general truth, I’m open and wait for the studies and public debate.
For information, the different proposals:
59. Calls on the Commission, when carrying out an impact assessment of its future legislative instrument, to explore, analyse and consider the implications of all possible legal solutions, such as:
a) establishing a compulsory insurance scheme where relevant and necessary for specific categories of robots whereby, similarly to what already happens with cars, producers, or owners of robots would be required to take out insurance cover for the damage potentially caused by their robots;
b) ensuring that a compensation fund would not only serve the purpose of guaranteeing compensation if the damage caused by a robot was not covered by insurance;
c) allowing the manufacturer, the programmer, the owner or the user to benefit from limited liability if they contribute to a compensation fund, as well as if they jointly take out insurance to guarantee compensation where damage is caused by a robot;
d) deciding whether to create a general fund for all smart autonomous robots or to create an individual fund for each and every robot category, and whether a contribution should be paid as a one-off fee when placing the robot on the market or whether periodic contributions should be paid during the lifetime of the robot;
e) ensuring that the link between a robot and its fund would be made visible by an individual registration number appearing in a specific Union register, which would allow anyone interacting with the robot to be informed about the nature of the fund, the limits of its liability in case of damage to property, the names and the functions of the contributors and all other relevant details;
f) creating a specific legal status for robots in the long run, so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons responsible for making good any damage they may cause, and possibly applying electronic personality to cases where robots make autonomous decisions or otherwise interact with third parties independently;
European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 with recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics (2015/2103(INL)): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P8-TA-2017-0051&language=EN&ring=A8-2017-0005