Robot Law

Innovation and Economic Growth and Privacy and Security

Article Snapshot


M. Ryan Calo, A. Michael Froomkin and Ian Kerr


Edward Elgar Publishing, 2016


Like the Internet, robots will transform society. This book shows how robots challenge ideas of legal responsibility, law enforcement, sexual intimacy, and warfare. Simple robots present few new problems, but autonomous robots that act without human control are problematic.

Policy Relevance

Robot law should balance the need to encourage innovation against the need to prevent harm. The use of robots in law enforcement could threaten due process and privacy.

Main Points

  • A robot is a constructed system capable of independent physical and mental activity, but is not alive in a biological sense.
  • Common law doctrines of negligence and product liability can evolve to cope with injuries caused by most robots; lawmakers should neither impose strict liability on producers of robots, nor give producers immunity from liability.
  • Truly autonomous robots are self-taught, and their behavior is unpredictable; current legal theories that make product manufacturers liable for injuries they cause might not apply to autonomous robots, as the theories require foreseeable harm.
  • A proposed Open Robotethics Initiative (ORi) would offer an online forum for many participants to discuss how robots should behave towards humans.
  • Robots intended for sexual intimacy could undermine the idea that consent is necessary for human sexual relations.
  • If evidence shows that the abuse of robots could lead to the abuse of living creatures, lawmakers should consider protecting robots from torture.
  • Three groups of programmers were each challenged to create an autonomous systems to issue speeding tickets; the circumstances under which each system issued tickets varied widely, depending on the programmers’ assumptions. Few of the programmers wanted to drive on a highway policed by the system they had created.
  • The use of robots in warfare could mean that humans are no longer killed on the battlefield, but this could make war far too easy from a political and logistical standpoint.
  • International policymakers should consider requiring that all weapon systems are under meaningful human control.


Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article