Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1706293
 
 

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Open Robotics


Ryan Calo


University of Washington - School of Law; Stanford University - Law School

November 9, 2010

Maryland Law Review, Vol. 70, No. 3, 2011

Abstract:     
With millions of home and service robots already on the market, and millions more on the way, robotics is poised to be the next transformative technology. As with personal computers, personal robots are more likely to thrive if they are sufficiently open to third-party contributions of software and hardware. No less than with telephony, cable, computing, and the Internet, an open robotics could foster innovation, spur consumer adoption, and create secondary markets.

But open robots also present the potential for inestimable legal liability, which may lead entrepreneurs and investors to abandon open robots in favor of products with more limited functionality. This possibility flows from a key difference between personal computers and robots. Like PCs, open robots have no set function, run third-party software, and invite modification. But unlike PCs, personal robots are in a position directly to cause physical damage and injury. Thus, norms against suit and expedients to limit liability such as the economic loss doctrine are unlikely to transfer from the PC and consumer software context to that of robotics.

This essay therefore recommends a selective immunity for manufacturers of open robotic platforms for what end users do with these platforms, akin to the immunity enjoyed under federal law by firearms manufacturers and websites. Selective immunity has the potential to preserve the conditions for innovation without compromising incentives for safety. The alternative is to risk being left behind in a key technology by countries with a higher bar to litigation and a serious head start.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 42

Keywords: robot, robotics, tort, immunity, open, software

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Date posted: November 11, 2010 ; Last revised: October 4, 2012

Suggested Citation

Calo, Ryan, Open Robotics (November 9, 2010). Maryland Law Review, Vol. 70, No. 3, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1706293

Contact Information

Ryan Calo (Contact Author)
University of Washington - School of Law ( email )
William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

Stanford University - Law School ( email )
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
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