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Robots should be built with an Ethical Black Box to track their decisions


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Robots should be equipped with an “ethical black box” to keep track of their decisions, a new research has suggested.

The discussion was sparked by scientists at the 18th annual Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems conference at the University of Surrey last week and listed several motivations.

“Accidents, we hope, will be rare, but they are inevitable,” said Alan Winfield, professor of robot ethics at the University of the West of England in Bristol.

“Anywhere robots and humans mix is going to be a potential situation for accidents.”

The proposal comes days after a K5 security robot named Steve fell down steps and into a fountain while patrolling a building in Washington DC. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident.



However, automation has already caused its first victim, as a man died last year after he left the wheel of his self-driving vehicle to the Autopilot.

Joshua Brown’s car – a Tesla Model S – did not detect a truck that drove across his path, resulting in the fatal collision.

The following investigation by the US National Highways and Transport Safety Agency blamed the driver for the accident, but the episode led to criticisms that Elon Musk’s company was actually testing critical safety technology on its customers.

A possible solution to these issues, the experts at the conference said, would be for robotics firms to follow the example set by the aviation industry, which brought in black boxes so that accident investigators could understand what caused fatal crashes and learn crucial safety lessons.

In terms of robotics, an ethical black box would record the robot’s decisions, its basis for making them, its movements, and sensors’ information from cameras, microphones and rangefinders.

Do you think this would be enough to prevent robot-related accidents in the future? Let us know in the comments.

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