Autonomous-driving and liability: a brief taxonomy

Summary: If you really want to regulate the field of autonomous driving, it would be better to establish – at last – the criminal responsibility of those who produce software and put an end to those shameful clauses of the user licenses that say that “software is as is, and not suitable for use in critical areas”.

Discussing with Prof. Alessandro Cortesi on Linkedin, an interesting debate emerged on the boundaries of legal responsibility for autonomous driving and on the relevance of ethical choices in the instructions to be given to the on-board computer of the vehicle to manage an accident.

Personally, in such a case, I find the use of ethics useless and dangerous.

Ethics is an individual fact which, through the political mediation of representatives of groups that share their own ethics, is translated into legally binding rules. If the State deals personally with ethics, it opens the door to crucifixions, burning and gas chambers.

On the “decision” in case of an accident: it is not the computer that “decides” but the man who programmed it that, (even if only as a possible malice / conscious guilt) takes responsibility for the degrees of autonomy (not decision) left to the software.

It is a fundamental and indispensable point not to transfer the legal consequences of behaviour from people to things.

Automatic driving cannot be allowed in such a way as to violate by default the laws that regulate driviing (conduct which, as it complies with the law, is presumed to be harmless).

The point, if anything, is the management of the extraordinary event (classic pedestrian that suddenly crosses): in this case – once again – the theme is the mal-functioning of the hardware or the bad conception, programming, interaction of the software, neither more nor less than what would happen in case of breakage of another component.

Moreover, when the machine loses control, there is no computer that can oppose the laws of physics.

The Hen na hotel problems haven’t been caused by “robots”

With a misleading title, the magazine Digital Trends claims that A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs because

it seems that — as great as robots can be — they’re simply not suitable for every role just yet. With the rise of robot bartenders, robot-staffed restaurants and the like, it will be interesting to see how many similar concepts fall apart in the coming years. After all, once the novelty of a robot dinosaur on reception wears off, you’re just faced with a receptionist who can’t properly understand you and lacks a sufficient number of fingers on each hand to properly photocopy your passport.

By coincidence, I have been at Tokyo’s Hen na hotel last year and I’ve experienced in first person the issues the article is talking about.

Problem is that there are no robot involved in running the hotel.

The dinosaurs, the fish, the personal assistant… they can hardly be defined as such, actually being just exoskeletons for a computer.

So, the difficulties experienced by the guests – and the criticism of the article – should be addressed to the poor quality of the OCR and voice recognition software, rather than to the “failure” of a “robot”. Or, in other words, to the humans who designed it.

So long “Ghost in the Shell”!

On the EU, the EC, AI and Robotics

The European Commission is pouring a lot of money on the development of the so called “AI” (whatever that means) and rumors talk about 1,5 billions if Euros by the end of the 2020.

That’s rather funny, indeed, because the Commission doesn’t seems to have a clear understanding of what the hell this “AI” stuff is actually made of. As neither the Parliament nor the “experts” actually know something about it. Continue reading “On the EU, the EC, AI and Robotics”

The Mistake of Giving Legal Value To Asimov Robotics’ Laws

In 1950, Isaac Asimov published Runaround, a short story where the famous Three Laws of Robotics were featured for the first time.
Today, Asimov’s Laws have become the rhetoric trick used by “artificial intelligence” and “intelligent robotics” experts.

Asimov’s Law are a brilliant literary invention but, from a legal standpoint, are flawed by a wrong assumption, i.e. the fact that robots are sentient being with autonomous will. Continue reading “The Mistake of Giving Legal Value To Asimov Robotics’ Laws”