Autonomous Robots

Recent policy agendas and research trends are openly pushing for "smarter", more dynamic and more autonomous robotics systems. Future robots are expected to help address the grand societal challenges for Europe, in particular, those of an ageing population, sustainable healthcare and welfare. Such developments raise a number of questions across sector domains and disciplines, and among the potential and real users of robotics systems services. This becomes especially evident when seen in the light of parallel efforts towards Responsible Research and Innovation, according to which it is expected that different actors come together in ways conducive to more responsible, sustainable and socially robust innovation policies.

EPINET chose to study the implications of the development of more autonomous robots to be used for care and companionship. A main reason for this is that this policy agenda finds itself at the cross-roads of several of the complicated issues emanating from present-day and near-future robotics. Epinet has focused on the ways in which different professional communities, such as industry, law, ethics and academic roboticists approach the vision of autonomous robots for care and companionship.

In spite of repeated calls for more and improved interdisciplinary and cross-sectorial collaborations, we also observe repeated failures of communication: between lawyers and engineers, between roboticists and their relevant publics. Multi-disciplinary collaborations are possible, and to some extent take place. However, such collaborations lack proper arenas and occasions for deliberation and communication to take place. Also, scientists, ethicists and lawyers come under pressure from policy-makers and industry. Such relations may actually render collaboration and communication more difficult.

Assessment methodologies involved: ethics, law, socio-technical evaluation, vision assessment.