• Nearly half of all current U.S. jobs may be
automated within 20 years.
• Robots that can think and make decisions may blur
the lines of liability.
• Wearable robotics or exoskeletons may someday
be standard safety gear.
AP PHOTO/MATT ROURKE
in that situation?” asked David Beyer, managing
member of Digital Risk Resources.
“I think that it’s a very complex issue. … They
try to think through a lot of these situational risks
but you can’t predict all the risks all the time.”
It’s crucial, said Guy Fraker, that we remember
robotics is not synonymous with infallible.
“You can say, ‘We can fix that with an algorithm.’
But can you program for that kind of variability in
(iRobot’s Roomba, for instance, is a vacuum —
period — no matter how many You Tubers use it as
an amusement park ride for their cats.)
But with an open robotic system, independent
developers would be able to create programs, or
apps, to allow the system to accomplish different
user-defined tasks, adding more potential culprits in
the event of a claim.
“This is going to be a big issue,” said Stephen
Wu, an attorney who is of counsel to Silicon Valley
Law Group based in San Jose, Calif.
“[In the event of a robot-related accident],
I’m going to be doing an investigation and using
experts to determine the root cause. Was it my own
environment? Was it the hardware manufacturer?
Was it the firmware manufacturer? Was it the
application software? Was it the operating system
[such as one providing mapping data]?”
These questions will grow still more complicated
with the growth of adaptive technology — meaning
when robots make decisions on their own based on
the data and sensory input they receive.
“Increasingly, adaptive intelligence is being built
in where the robot is going to be changing what it
does based on external stimuli,” said Drew Haaser,
U.S. technology practice leader for Marsh.
“Let’s say it’s putting welds on an auto and it’s
been programmed to sense the properties of the
materials it’s welding and adapt … . If it makes the
wrong decision — what are going to be the legal
implications to that?”
That question reaches a whole other level when
the consequence is a loss of life.
“What if you have a robot that is ... facing the
decision to either run over your daughter or hit a
school bus full of kids, what is the right thing to do
ROBOTS ARE present everywhere in the