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Robot Rights Debate Could Shape Automation’s Future in Europe and Beyond

Last year, a report to the European Parliament proposed giving robots legal rights and responsibilities. Policy makers are now debating about the report’s recommendations. If they pass laws granting robot rights, they would change the future of robotics in the European Union. Here are two of the report’s proposals:

  • A new requirement for companies to report the contribution of robotics and AI to their economic results for the purposes of taxation and social security contributions
  • A new mandatory insurance scheme for companies to cover damage caused by their robots

The idea of giving robot rights or personhood has divided the EU. In April, more than 150 people in robotics, AI, the law, and other fields wrote to the European Commission, warning that robot rights would infringe on human rights.

What’s taking place in the EU is part of a global phenomenon. Governments from Europe to Asia to North America are looking at policies to keep up with rapidly evolving robots and artificial intelligence. These range from outright bans to legal protections to new taxes. As public policies for automation emerge, robotics suppliers, integrators, and end users will face new challenges.

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