Euro Robotics Charter Raising AI Hurdles in AVs?

An European association representing players in the robotics sector has published a charter of industry goals that could compromise the use of artificial intelligence in automobiles.

That’s because one of its main ambitions is to promote a “human-in-command approach”. Released by the European Engineering Industries Association (EUnited), the charter defines 10 focus areas intended to shape the future of work while supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.

EUnited, whose members include heavyweight industrial manufacturers such as Kawasaki Robotics, Epson, Stihl and Kärcher, was formed to develop, advocate, and communicate topics of industrial relevance to expand Europe’s competitiveness in robotic technology.

However, some in the autonomous driving industry may be concerned that the human-in-command approach could compromise the extent to which AI could be employed. Many see that, in any future Level 5 automated driving scenario, the human would certainly not be in full command of mission critical functions and, thus, be in contravention of the charter. For example, AI would be controlling the decision-making process in route choices and collision avoidance, such as in crash or swerve situations.

In a statement launching the charter, EUnited said its first focus area puts the human in the center, stating ‘The charter wants robots to relieve workers of the dull and low-interaction work that is not well suited for human nature – employees should work like humans and not like machines. Focus area two makes it clear that robots must assist humans, not the other way around. Therefore, the European robotics industry advocates a “human-in-command approach”. The other focus areas deal with skills development, human-robot collaboration, the ease of machine use, initiatives especially for young people and strategies tackling demographic change.’

In an email to TU-Automotive Patrick Schwarzkopf director at the Robotics Sector of EUnited said the organization does not consider autonomous vehicles to qualify as robots and so should not be covered by the charter. He added: “The Good Work Charter does not cover – or even address – road vehicles. Cars – even when driverless – are not robots by definition. The Humans in Command approach is important in designing automation systems and workplaces, e.g. in factories, when humans work directly or hand-in-hand with robots. The workplaces should be designed in such a way that the robot assists the human worker, not the other way round.”

That said, many experts in the autonomous sector consider that the driverless vehicle will, indeed, eventually become a ‘work place’ even with the advent of Level 3 and above technology. Drivers and passengers, whether long haul truckers or commercial travelers, are probably going to be expected to contribute administration work while their vehicles are in autonomous mode. If that is the case, the charter could certainly have a bearing on the debate about what being in command actually means.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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