Massachusetts legislators, State Rep. Linsay Sabadosa and State Sen. Michael Moore, have introduced a pioneering act titled “An Act to ensure the responsible use of advanced robotic technologies". The proposed bill aims to restrict the manufacturing, sale, and operation of robots or drones equipped with weapons.
Three key provisions of the legislation focus on:
- Prohibiting the sale and usage of robotic devices with mounted weapons.
- Preventing the use of robots to intimidate or harass individuals.
- Disallowing the utilization of robotic tools to physically detain a person.
Violators of these provisions risk incurring fines ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, alongside other penalties related to breaches of existing legal statutes.
Senator Michael Moore commented,
"In the face of rapid technological innovation, it's crucial to preemptively regulate for public safety. This bill introduces vital restrictions around the potential misuse of robots, particularly their weaponization by unauthorized entities. It also establishes rules for law enforcement's use of these tools, aiming to foster public trust."
Specific exceptions are stipulated in the bill. For instance, the US Military, certain law enforcement officials, and private firms trialing anti-weaponization methods—with waivers granted by the Massachusetts Attorney General—will not face the outlined penalties.
Furthermore, the legislation mandates the procurement of a warrant prior to a robot accessing private premises unless faced with pressing circumstances. This clause seeks to maintain public trust in law enforcement's application of robotic technologies. The act also dictates that data concerning the employment of such advanced robotic systems by law enforcement agencies be accessible to the public as per Massachusetts public records law.
Brendan Schulman, Vice President of Policy & Government Relations at Boston Dynamics, voiced his perspective: "Mobile robots present tremendous opportunities to enhance public safety and quality of life. Yet, there are concerns about potential misuse. Together with several robotics entities, we've emphasized the importance of ethical robotic use and opposed their misuse. Working with Massachusetts legislators and civil rights proponents has been pivotal in crafting this groundbreaking legislation."
The bill is now under review by the Massachusetts legislative bodies, with committees set to examine and gather testimonies.
Nationally, the dialogue on the use of armed robots persists. Notably, San Francisco's leadership previously chose to provisionally bar its police force from deploying robots with lethal capabilities, marking a matter still open for future deliberation.