Europe considers a robot tax

Starship’s delivery robot has started working… under the surveillance of humans. © DR

Legal status, code of ethics, tax situation… Europe is pondering robots. On January 12, members of the Committee on Legal Affairs met to discuss regulations for robotics to be adopted by the European Union.

Already in May 2016, the same commission proposed to give robots the status of “electronic persons”, and thus rights and duties. The idea, among others, was to create a code of ethics determining responsibility in case of damages caused by a robot. The automobile sector and its autonomous vehicles is “the sector that is most in need of European and international regulations,” emphasized Belgian Eurodeputy Mady Delvaux.

In the report adopted by the Committee on Legal Affairs on January 12, the concept of social responsibility is also mentioned, proposing a robot tax, a tax or a levy on the use or maintenance of robots for work. The European Parliament will vote on these proposals in February.

Delivery robots in DC

The issue is increasingly urgent. Since January 18, robots have begun delivering food in the streets of Redwood City, California, and in Washington, DC. So far accompanied by humans, these robots developed by Starship Technologies, an Estonian start-up founded by two cofounders of Skype, will eventually need to get by autonomously. The delivery robots have been tested in some 40 European cities, and Starship announced that it had raised $17.2 million.

Beyond robots, artificial intelligence (AI) will disrupt our social model, declared on January 19 Laurent Alexandre, founder of Doctissimo and specialist in nanotechologies and biotechnologies, during a round table on AI at the Senate. “AI will explode, implode or radically modify certain aspects of work,” he predicts, recalling the supremacy of U.S. companies on the property of our data.

In terms of algorithms, France’s Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) on January 23 launched a public “ethical and digital” debate on the topic. It should last one year and lead to proposals for public policies. Those who wish to participate can contact the CNIL via this form.

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