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'Sophisticated Robots': Balancing Liability, Regulation, and Innovation

91 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2014  

F. Patrick Hubbard

University of South Carolina - School of Law

Date Written: March 6, 2014

Abstract

Our lives are being transformed by large mobile “sophisticated robots” with increasingly higher levels of autonomy, intelligence, and interconnectivity among themselves. For example, driverless automobiles are likely to become commercially available within a decade. Many people who suffer physical injuries from these robots will seek legal redress for their injury, and regulatory schemes are likely to impose requirements to reduce the number and severity of injuries.

This Article addresses the issue of whether the current liability and regulatory systems provide a fair, efficient method for balancing the concern for physical safety against the need to incentivize the innovation necessary to develop these robots. The Article provides context for analysis by reviewing innovation and robots’ increasing size, mobility, autonomy, intelligence, and interconnections in terms of safety, particularly in terms of physical interaction with humans, and by summarizing the current legal framework for addressing personal injuries in terms of doctrine, application, and underlying policies. The Article argues that the legal system’s method of addressing physical injury from robotic machines that interact closely with humans has provided an appropriate balance of innovation and liability for personal injury. It critiques claims that the system is flawed and needs fundamental change and concludes that the legal system will continue to foster the innovation of reasonably safe sophisticated robots fairly and efficiently.

Keywords: Innovation, Robots, Driverless Cars, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Liability, Regulation, Torts, Efficiency, Fairness, Computers, Sensors, Insurance, Product Liability, Motor Vehicles, Courts, Contracts, UCC, Safety Standards, NHTSA, FAA

Suggested Citation

Hubbard, F. Patrick, 'Sophisticated Robots': Balancing Liability, Regulation, and Innovation (March 6, 2014). Florida Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2408557

F. Patrick Hubbard (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina - School of Law ( email )

Main & Greene Streets
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

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