Massachusetts Proposes Bill to Ban Weaponized Robots

Massachusetts has introduced a groundbreaking bill that aims to ban the manufacture, sale, and use of robots with mounted weapons. The legislation would also prohibit law enforcement and others from using robots to threaten or physically restrain individuals without proper oversight. The proposed bill has received support from major robotics makers like Boston Dynamics and civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

State Senator Michael Moore, one of the bill’s co-authors, stated that the legislation aims to establish reasonable regulations around the use of robots and strengthen public trust in law enforcement. The bill would require police and other law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before deploying a robot on private property. Violators of the bill’s provisions could face fines ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

The ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Program Director, Kade Crockford, expressed concerns about weaponized robots, emphasizing that they pose a threat to safety and basic rights. Crockford stated that the bill will help prevent such threats from becoming a reality and keep them confined to the realm of fiction portrayed in Hollywood.

While the proposed legislation is limited to Massachusetts, its implications could extend beyond the state’s borders. Massachusetts is a hub for advanced robotics innovation, housing companies like Boston Dynamics and iRobot. Boston Dynamics, in particular, has been vocal about ensuring its robots are not used for harmful purposes and has taken measures like signing an open letter pledging not to weaponize its robots.

The use of robots by law enforcement has become a reality, with examples ranging from explosive-equipped drones to quadruped robots patrolling public areas. Massachusetts’ proposed bill may inspire other states to introduce similar regulations. However, the bill does include exceptions, allowing bomb squad officials to use robots for disabling explosives and granting waivers to the US Department of Defense and its contractors to test anti-weaponization technologies.

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