Canadian university to focus on drone and robot law
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Canadian university to focus on drone and robot law

Canadian university to focus on drone and robot law

It looks like science fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” may soon become reality, as the University of Windsor in Ontario province, Canada has hired a law professor specializing in robotics to focus on legal issues related to drones and robots.

Kristen Thomasen, who is currently finishing up her PhD, is set to join the university next year as an assistant professor of Law, Robotics and Society. 

Speaking to CBC Radio in an interview recently, Thomasen said that she was particularly interested in the impact of drones on privacy, particularly in public places.

“We don’t really have a strong legal recognition of privacy interests when we’re out in public – at a public park, walking down the street. But I think drones really challenge that and are causing some social disruption, and the law can help to deal with that,” she said.

Thomasen said that what was different about robots was how they act in the real world, as well as how they impact it. Besides the fact that robots can physically interact with their surroundings and gather data, robots also have the power to process the information they collect and make decisions based on it.

“Robots in the home raise privacy questions … If a robot is collecting information, what’s happening with that information, who has access to it, and how is it being used?” she questioned.

In terms of how well-equipped the law is to keep up with advancing technologies, Thomasen said that the law is used to dealing with new technology, but in the past, some disruptive technology, like the automobile, required major restructuring or rethinking of certain legal regimes.

“I think robotics will be our example in this lifetime of a disruptive technology that will need new laws and regulation,” she added.

Another concern of Thomasen’s involving the latest technology is driverless cars: “The big issue at the forefront is the question of how to program the car to make decisions, which may lead the automobile to make a decision that a human driver would not.”

With all these emerging technologies, it will be a challenge for legislation to keep up, but Thomasen is looking forward to begin her work in researching and developing regulatory frameworks for drones and robots.

“It’s quite exciting for the field, and it’s very exciting for me, obviously,” she said, adding: “It’s a strong recognition of the importance of thinking about the legal implications of robots.”

Over the past several years, drones and robots have increasingly become a fixture in day-to-day life, with drones being used to smuggle banned items into North Korea or robots being made to help rich tycoons carry their goods after a shopping spree.

Image via Flickr.

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