Federal Robotics Commission

Should the United States have a federal commission dedicated entirely to robotics? There’s no denying that robotics is a rapidly growing field. Many world powers have already noted that robots could be key in the future and have taken measures to promote advancements in robotics. Germany and Japan are two countries known for their contribution to robotics, and the United States wants to stay in step as a relevant player in the field. A federal robotics commission could be just the thing to make sure the U.S. can keep up with the pace the rest of the world is setting.

Brookings recently released an essay written by Ryan Calo, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law and former director at The Center for Internet and Society, that made the case for federal commission that would promote robotics within the U.S.

A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation was having an issue that they couldn’t resolve. There were multiple reports that Toyota owners were experiencing malfunction in their vehicles. Cars would unexpectedly accelerate, leading to injury and death.

While some thought that the problem was mechanical, others thought that the problem was with the software. So who do you call when you have an issue with a machine that you don’t know how to fix? NASA maybe? Yes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called NASA to fix their car.

So NASA put their rocket science on hold and observed the interactions between the software and the hardware in a Toyota. They established that “There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas.”

The point here is, that there wasn’t an organization dedicated to the interaction between mechanical and electronic components that could be consulted to help the NHTSA. While NASA had the expertise to help with the issue, they had to put their own priorities on hold. While NASA was able to help with the issue, it wouldn’t be practical to constantly consult them whenever an issue of robotics arises.

A federal commission dedicated to the association between hardware and software would not only be a good resource for problems in the future, but also a source for new breakthroughs and technologies!