State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, in collaboration with State Senator Michael Moore, has introduced legislation that would prohibit the manufacture, sale, and operation of robotic devices or drones mounted with weapons. The bill, titled “An Act to Ensure the Responsible Use of Advanced Robotic Technologies,” aims to address concerns surrounding the misuse of advanced mobile robotics. With the increasing accessibility, affordability, and adaptability of these technologies, there is a growing fear that they could be weaponized, posing a threat to public safety.
Last year, Boston Dynamics and other companies developing advanced robotics expressed their concern about the potential for misuse and pledged not to weaponize their creations. They highlighted the risks of untrustworthy individuals using these technologies to invade civil rights or to threaten, harm, or intimidate others.
The proposed bill contains three primary provisions. First, it bans the sale and use of robotic devices with weapons. Second, it prohibits the use of robotic devices to threaten or harass individuals. Lastly, it bans the usage of robotic devices to physically restrain someone. Violations of these provisions could result in fines ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, in addition to penalties imposed through existing laws.
The legislation, if passed, could be the first of its kind to be enacted into law in the United States. It has garnered support from leaders in the robotics industry and civil rights organizations, including the ACLU of Massachusetts. The bill aims to strike a balance between protecting public safety and ensuring that modern tools are not taken away from law enforcement officials responsible for keeping communities safe.
The legislation also addresses the need for transparency and accountability in law enforcement’s use of advanced robotic technology. It codifies the requirement for a warrant when a robot enters private property, with exceptions for exigent circumstances. It also mandates that information about the usage of advanced robotic technology by law enforcement agencies be made available to the public under Massachusetts public records law.
The bill recognizes the importance of innovation but emphasizes the need for critical regulation to protect the public. The U.S. military, law enforcement officials disposing of explosives, and private companies testing anti-weaponization technologies can apply for case-by-case waivers from the state attorney general.
By enacting this legislation, Massachusetts aims to set an example for responsible robotics regulation and ensure the responsible use of advanced robotic technologies, promoting public trust and acceptance of this emerging technology.
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