Can they be judged by the Court of Justice?
by Analytics Insight
April 10, 2022
Robots are gradually becoming a part of modern society, but will they answer if they commit a crime?
An accident is an undesirable and unplanned event, and there is hardly a day when the media does not report robotic accidents. Robots are increasingly present in our daily lives and they can be incredibly useful. Over the years, there have been many robot-related accidents. Robot accidents are becoming a concern for two reasons. First, the increase in the number of robots will naturally lead to an increase in the number of accidents in which they are involved. Second, we are getting better at building more complex robots. When a robot is more complex, it is more difficult to understand why something went wrong.
Accidents that may involve robotics and automation:
As technology advances, workplaces will find ways to use automation to improve their processes. The four categories of robotic incidents include a robotic arm or controlled tool causing the accident, failure of an accessory of the robot’s mechanical parts, or loss of control of the robot’s power supplies.
- Impact or collision accidents: The workplace could soon be cluttered with robotic arms, self-driving conveyor belts and wire delivery systems. Contact accidents can occur due to unexpected movements, component failures, or program changes with the robot arm or peripheral equipment.
- Runover and Entrapment Accidents: Workers could find themselves trapped between a robotic arm and another piece of equipment. The individual can be physically driven and crushed by other peripheral equipment.
- Accidents of mechanical parts: If the stand-alone equipment breaks down or malfunctions, it could cause an accident. A mechanical accident occurs when the components, tooling or end effector, peripheral equipment or power source driven by the robot fails. Mechanical failures include release of parts, failure of gripper mechanism, and falling materials causing injury to workers.
- Other accidents: Working with robots can also lead to other types of incidents. There could be common accidents not related to the categories otherwise specified. Potential electrical and pressurized fluid hazards exist in the equipment that powers and controls the robot. High pressure cutting currents or hose whip hazards could result from ruptured hydraulic lines. Shocks, burns, release of fluids under pressure – these malfunctions can lead to serious injuries.
Here are some real robotic accidents:
- Joshua Brown is the first person killed in a self-driving car accident.
- A repairman adjusting an active robot in his workspace slipped and the robot arm hit him on the head.
- Robert Williams is the first person killed by a robot. He was killed after a robot arm struck him as he climbed a shelf to retrieve castings.
- A worker entered the workspace of an operating robot in an effort to remove buildup of components. As a result, the robot arm hit the worker’s head.
- Nine South African soldiers were killed and 14 others were injured after an anti-aircraft gun started firing on its own in 2007
How to investigate robotic accidents:
With increased automation and advancements in robotics, comes the unique problem of robots killing humans. Most robots run on AI, which is able to make human-like decisions for the robot, based on information from large data sets. The more complex things a robot is capable of, the more types of information it has to interpret. As robots become more complex and are able to act on a variety of information, it becomes even more important to determine what information the robot has acted on, especially when an accident occurs.
If a robot is damaged or something goes wrong, we will be much more concerned about the robot causing damage or failing to mitigate damage to a person. Basically, robots have no motive to harm in the first place.
Robot accident investigations have a key advantage over human accident investigations: there is potential for a built-in witness, such as with a black box. The black box was designed to withstand aircraft crashes and provide information about the reasons for the crash. This information is extremely valuable, not only for understanding incidents, but also for preventing their recurrence. It is designed to record all the information that the robot acts on.
The goal is for the ethical black box to become the norm in robots of all brands and applications. While the data recorded by the ethical black box is crucial to enable us to investigate, the investigative process provides the opportunity to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated twice.
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