Recent Robotics Reviews on OpenLearn…

A few years ago I worked on an OU robotics course ambitiously titled “Robotics and the Meaning of Life” (the working title had been “Joy, Fun, Robotics”), elements of which have been woven into a new OU course Technologies in practice (hmm, thinks – would folk be interested in a course on data in practice?)

As well as providing a general introduction to robotics technology, the course reviewed a range of social, political and ethical issues that might impact on a society in which mobile, intelligent, autonomous machines were part of our everyday experience. As part of our current co-pro series of the BBC World Service Click radio programme, we’ve been exploring some of the issues associated with recent developments in robotic vehicles. This has also provided an opportunity for me to start scouting around some of the emerging laws that are being considered with a view to regulating the operation -and behaviour – of autonomous intelligent robots. So here’s a quick round up of some of the related articles that I’ve recently posted to OpenLearn…

  • A dark future for warehousing? – robots are playing an increasingly important role in the logistics industry, with robot workers increasingly finding a role in warehouses. This post reviews several different ways in which robots can work with – and instead of – human workers in today’s modern warehouses.
  • Robot cars, part 1: Parking the future for now – the DARPA robot vehicle challenges demonstrated how autonomous robot vehicles could cope with off-road and urban driving conditions, leading in part to the development of things like the Google autonomous car that is currently being tested on public roads in several US states. Whilst the mass availability of such vehicles is still only a remote possibility for a variety of reasons (from cost and safety issues, to legal and ethical considerations), autonomous driving in certain limited situations is now possible.In this post, we look at one such situation, disliked by many a driver – parking – and see how our cars may soon be managing that aspect of driving on our behalf in the near future.
  • Robot cars, part 2: Convoys of the near future – along with the fiddliness of parking, the monotony of stop-start traffic jams and convoy style motorway driving provide another environment in which autopilot systems may be able to improve not only the driving experience, but also road safety. In this post, I review some recent demonstrations in autonomous driver support systems suited to these particular road conditions.
  • Naughty robot: Where’s your human operator? – a wealth of regulations at international, national and even regional (state) level cover the operation of our public highways and public airspace. But when the robots start taking control of their own actions and decision-making in these spaces, do we need further regulation to limit the behaviour of robots as distinct from humans? And when it comes to allowing autonomous robots to bear arms, is that a situation we are comfortable with? In this post, I review some of the emerging laws that are developing around not only the testing and use of autonomous robot cars on our public highways, but also in consideration of autonomous flying vehicles – drones – in both domestic and military settings. in part, this sets up the question – will there be one law for humans and other for robots?

Hear the latest episode of Click radio here: #BBCClickRadio, or keep track of the OU supported special editions via OpenLearn: OU on the BBC: Click – A Route 66 of the future

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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