State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa and State Senator Michael Moore have introduced an Act that aims to ensure responsible use of advanced robotic technologies. This legislation prohibits the manufacture, sale, and operation of robotic devices or drones equipped with weapons.
If passed, this legislation will establish sensible regulations that protect the public while providing stability and predictability to the emerging market and its entrepreneurs.
The bill includes three main provisions regarding robots, drones, and other uncrewed robotic devices in Massachusetts. These provisions involve banning the sale and use of weapons-mounted robotic devices, banning the use of robotic devices for threatening or harassing purposes, and banning the use of robotic devices to physically restrain individuals.
Violators of the above provisions will face fines ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, in addition to any penalties imposed for violating existing laws.
State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa (D-Northampton) stated, “Our offices have collaborated with key stakeholders to develop this legislation, which is endorsed by leaders in the robotics industry and civil rights organizations.
“Entrepreneurs need the stability provided by our legislature’s foresight, communities need protection from this rapidly advancing technology, and above all, we must ensure public confidence and safety.
“Robotics can, do, and will continue to shape our economies and lives for the better. It is our responsibility as lawmakers to stay informed about this developing technology.”
Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury) added, “Innovation often outpaces the critical regulations required to safeguard the public.
“I am pleased to have worked with Representative Sabadosa, the ACLU of Massachusetts, Boston Dynamics, and many others to proactively address the potential dangers of this technology falling into the wrong hands.
“This bill establishes reasonable boundaries for using robots to harass the public and prohibits the weaponization of this technology without proper oversight. It also introduces rules for law enforcement to enhance public trust.
“If passed, I hope this legislation can serve as a model for responsible robotics regulation in other states and beyond.”
The United States Military and its contractors, law enforcement officials disposing of explosives, and private companies testing anti-weaponization technologies with case-by-case waivers from the Massachusetts Attorney General are exempt from the penalties outlined in this bill.
To ensure public confidence in law enforcement’s use of these technologies, the legislation codifies the requirement for a warrant when a robot enters private property, except in urgent circumstances.
Furthermore, the bill mandates that information about the usage of advanced robotic technology by law enforcement agencies must be accessible to the public under Massachusetts public records law.
Kade Crockford, Technology for Liberty Program Director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, commented, “Hollywood often depicts a dystopian future filled with robotic violence, but we have the power to ensure that these images remain fictional.
“Weaponized robots pose an unacceptable threat to our safety and basic rights. We commend Senator Moore and Representative Sabadosa for identifying these potential risks and collaborating with tech industry leaders and advocates to introduce this legislation, which ensures our laws keep up with advancing technologies.”
Brendan Schulman, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations at Boston Dynamics, remarked, “Advanced mobile robots are incredible tools that can improve our lives and ensure safety. However, attempts to weaponize general-purpose robots jeopardize public trust and acceptance of this emerging technology.
“Recently, we led a consortium of six leading robotics companies urging policymakers to ensure the ethical use of general-purpose robots and prohibit their misuse.
“We are proud to have worked with Representative Sabadosa, Senator Moore, civil rights advocates, and robotics industry leaders in developing the nation’s first comprehensive legislation on this topic in our home state of Massachusetts.”
Tom Ryden, Executive Director of MassRobotics, the largest robotics innovation hub in the United States, expressed, “The role of robots today is to enhance and improve the lives of humans, and this bill will safeguard the positive impact robots have.
“As a global leader in robotics innovation, it is fitting that Massachusetts continues to lead by being the first state to adopt this important legislation.
“MassRobotics proudly supports this legislation and looks forward to collaborating with the sponsors and Governor Healey to see it signed into law.”
Michael Robbins, Chief Advocacy Officer at the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), stated, “AUVSI is honored to support this legislation, which promotes the safe and ethical use of robotics in the Commonwealth.
“The Act effectively encourages the use of advanced robotics in a manner that ensures public safety and acceptance while also providing specific exemptions for the Department of Defense and law enforcement to carry out precise missions for national defense and public safety.”
Introduced in the Massachusetts House and Senate, the Act to ensure the responsible use of advanced robotic technologies will now undergo evaluation and testimony by legislative committees.