£12m project to assess safety of robotics and autonomous systems

As driverless cars and intelligent robots move out of the realms of science fiction, the first international research project to examine the safety of these technologies has been announced.

A £12 million international programme looking at the safety of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) has been announced by Lloyd's Register Foundation and the University of York - an initiative they say is the first of its kind in the world.

The Assuring Autonomy International Programme (AAIP), based at the University of York, will focus exclusively on "safety and assurance of RAS".

The team behind the initiative said that as RAS technologies expand in a range of industries there is an urgent need to work with industry, regulators and other researchers to address key safety challenges and assess risks.

Programme leader Professor John McDermid, a world leader in systems and software safety engineering, said: "The next generation of robotics and autonomous systems holds significant promise and opportunity for commerce and society as a whole.

"But it is essential for all of us that the systems are dependable and safe.

"The University of York is leading this programme, focusing on assurance of RAS so that the benefits can be realised without unacceptable risk."

In 2016, a Lloyd's Register Foundation foresight review of robotics and autonomous systems identified that one of the biggest obstacles to gaining the benefits of RAS was safety assurance and putting the right regulation in place.

Foundation chief executive Professor Richard Clegg said: "Robotics and autonomous systems are going to make a big impact on the sectors we serve as a charity and key to uptake and application is going to be their assurance of safety and regulation.

"That is why establishing this programme with York is so important towards our purpose of working together for a safer world."

The programme, which will run for five years from January, has been funded with a £10 million pledge from Lloyd's Register Foundation together with £2 million from the university.

Kevin Daffey, director of engineering and technology for marine at Rolls-Royce, said his firm was heavily involved in the development of autonomous ships.

He said: "Our advances in intelligence awareness systems and machine learning are already making existing ships safer and more efficient.

"They are also essential in making the widespread global uptake of autonomous ships a reality.

"Equally important is the continued development of robust regulatory frameworks to ensure the highest standards of marine safety and performance alongside public trust of emerging technologies."

He said: "We look forward to working closely with the programme as it works to advance standards, research and training in the safety of autonomous systems."

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