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Communications of the ACM


Legal Issues with Robots

NAO 25 robot

Robots like this NAO 25 (nicknamed Rosie) from Aldebaran Robotics are designed as a development platform for educational researchers. If Rosie has an accident that causes damage or injury, who is responsible?

Credit: Patrick Higgins / The Free Press

A doctor examines a stroke patient located in a rural community in South America from a hospital located thousands of miles away. A stock trade is executed instantly based on real-time information. A new pair of shoes is purchased for a rock-bottom price during an Internet flash sale. A car is guided down the highway at a safe distance from others, automatically adjusting the engine speed, steering controls, and brakes based on real-time traffic information.

In each of these cases, there is no question that robotic technology is making life easier, safer, or more convenient for human beings. Despite these benefits, concerns remain about what happens when robotic technology fails, either unintentionally or by design, resulting in economic loss, property damage, injury, or loss of life.


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