Considering practical ethics and ensuring systems are acceptable and desirable.

Robotics and autonomous systems have the potential to deliver societal benefits and should always be deployed to support the public good.

In addition to the safety perspective, there are ethical issues such as the potential for bias and discrimination, and the possibility of deploying systems for which the ethical and legal responsibility is unclear in the event of an accident or incident.

The work will build on existing collaborations, such as those between computer science and philosophy, on how to use principles from practical ethics to inform the design and assessment of systems.

It will also use these principles to inform governance structures, including the ways in which responsibility is managed across the many stakeholders involved. There will also be a major emphasis on public attitudes to technology, in particular how they can gain the trust necessary to use systems.

Research challenges

  • Application of practical ethics to the assurance, regulation and governance of artificial intelligence and autonomy.
  • Assessment of the nature of responsibility and legal ‘gaps’ arising from the use of artificial intelligence and autonomy, and use of these to guide system design.
  • Understanding of public attitudes to artificial intelligence and autonomy, including how the public come to trust such technology.

Research Interim Lead: Professor John McDermid OBE FREng

John McDermid became Professor of Software Engineering at the University of York in 1987. His research covers a broad range of issues in systems, software and safety engineering. He became Director of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation funded Assuring Autonomy International Programme in January 2018, focusing on safety of robotics and autonomous systems.

He acts as an advisor to government and industry, for example on ethical governance for autonomous vehicles, and is engaged in international activities on governance for artificial intelligence and autonomy. He has published widely, including on ethics and governance of autonomous systems.

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