The Case for a Federal Robotics Commission

Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation, September 2014

18 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2014

See all articles by Ryan Calo

Ryan Calo

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

Date Written: September 1, 2014


Physical systems that sense, process, and act upon the world — robots, in other words — are increasingly commonplace. The systems enable novel forms of human experience and, as such, challenge prevailing assumptions of law and policy.

In this paper, I explore whether advances in robotics call for a standalone body within the federal government. I tentatively conclude that the United States would benefit from an agency dedicated to the responsible integration of robotics technologies into American society. Robots, like radio or trains, make possible new human experiences and create distinct but related challenges that would benefit from being examined and treated together. They do require special expertise to understand and may require investment and coordination to thrive.

The institution I have in mind would not “regulate” robotics in the sense of fashioning rules regarding their use, at least not in any initial incarnation. Rather, the agency would advise on issues at all levels — state and federal, domestic and foreign, civil and criminal — that touch upon the unique aspects of robotics and artificial intelligence and the novel human experiences these technologies generate.

Keywords: robots, robotics, technology, administrative law, agencies, policy

Suggested Citation

Calo, Ryan, The Case for a Federal Robotics Commission (September 1, 2014). Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation, September 2014. Available at SSRN:

Ryan Calo (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

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Stanford University - Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

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