The European Parliament has set out draft plans that could see robot workers classed as 'electronic persons' with certain legal rights.
Specifically, the plan urges the European Commission to consider the possibility of creating "a specific legal status for robots, so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons".
This would include "specific rights and obligations, including that of making good any damage they may cause".
The topic of damage was also raised by the proposal that specific insurance policies should be created to cover working robots.
This would involve a "compulsory insurance scheme whereby, similarly to what already happens with cars, producers or owners of robots would be required to take out insurance cover for the damage potentially caused by their robots", the plan stated.
The draft document also reiterated calls for the creation of an EU agency to monitor the development and deployment of robot workers in various industries.
"For the purposes of traceability, and in order to facilitate the implementation of further recommendations, a system of registration of advanced robots should be introduced based on the criteria established for the classification of robots," it said.
"The system of registration and the register should be EU-wide, covering the internal market, and should be managed by an EU Agency for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence."
Those working in the robotics sector said that the plans had some merit, but that it is perhaps a bit early to worry about this right now.
"That we would create a legal framework with 'electronic persons' is something that could happen in 50 years but not in 10 years," said Patrick Schwarzkopf, managing director of the robotic and automation department at German firm VDMA.
"We think it would be very bureaucratic and would stunt the development of robotics."
Nevertheless, there is definitely a trend in this direction. A report in 2015 suggested that many low- to medium-skilled jobs could be replaced by robots.
Only last week Enfield Council announced plans to use IPSoft's Amelia chat agent to deal with basic queries, potentially removing the need for any human interaction.
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