Clearpath Robotics vows ‘No killer robots’

Kitchener-based robotics company takes stand against autonomous weapons systems.

0 August 20, 2014
Mike McLeod

Clearpath Robotics has pledged that its robotic technology, like these Grizzly Robotic Utility Vehicles, won't be developed as autonomous "killers".

Clearpath Robotics has pledged that its robotic technology, like these Grizzly Robotic Utility Vehicles, won’t be developed as autonomous “killers”.

It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie but, according Clearpath Robotics, development of killer robots is a near-future danger that needs to be banned now.

The Kitchener-based company — makers of autonomous all-terrain and waterborne robotic vehicles — is the first robotics firm to sign on with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an international coalition of non-governmental organizations working to ban fully autonomous weapons.

Although Clearpath currently works with military clients, it says it will refuse to manufacture weaponized robots that remove humans from the decision loop. In an open letter, Clearpath co-founder and CTO, Ryan Gariepy, wrote:

“This technology has the potential to kill indiscriminately and to proliferate rapidly; early prototypes already exist. Despite our continued involvement with Canadian and international military research and development, Clearpath Robotics believes that the development of killer robots is unwise, unethical and should be banned on an international scale.”

For the purposes of the pledge, Clearpath defines killer robot as Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) that can carry out their potentially deadly missions without a human issuing the final kill command. In the letter, the company acknowledges that such robotic weapons could have the upside of eliminating panic-driven decisions from the battlefield but stresses such robots would also lack “morality, sense, or emotional understanding.”

“We encourage those who might see business opportunities in this technology to seek other ways to apply their skills and resources for the betterment of humankind,” Gariepy’s letter concludes. “Finally, we ask everyone to consider the many ways in which this technology would change the face of war for the worse.

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