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Autonomous Systems

"Autonomous systems and the law”

The expression "autonomous systems” can be used broadly to encompass many kinds of artificial, decision-capable agents operating without the direction of a human being. Examples include physical robots and drones as well purely digital software agents. We chose this term in order to include both physical and non-physical robots. Thanks to the most recent technology, such as cloud computing, the interconnection between autonomous systems has increased, and more and more it involves objects and humans. While many of us may still be thinking about being connected in terms of computers, tablets and smartphones, the so called “Internet of Things” describes a world where just about anything can communicate and be connected in an intelligent fashion.

In light of these rapid technological advancements, there are many disciplines that gradually are going to insist on the applications in society and workplace. A clear example is Industry 4.0, that describes the extraordinary rise in data volumes, computational power and connectivity; the emergence of analytics and business-intelligence capabilities; new forms of human-machine interaction (e.g. augmented-reality systems); and improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world, such as (learning) robots and 3-D printing. Economists, lawyers, philosophers and engineers are trying to delineate their view about the new intelligent environment that we are facing.

From the legal point of view questions about, among other things:
- The legal status to apply to learning robots in civil and work contexts;
- The type of liability that can arise in case of damage or malfunctioning;
- The protection of privacy of people’s collected data,
and so on.

This section aims to be an observatory and a collection of materials that have dealt and deal with the issues related to autonomous systems within the legal field, having a specific attention towards the current and future tendencies of their use.
Notification of news, cases, documents, studies and other such materials on the part of readers will be appreciated. We invite you to take part in this initiative by sending your contributions to

Recent Publications:

- A.Santosuosso, B.Bottalico, “Informazione giuridica e neuroscienze”, in Informatica Giuridica, Pagallo & Durante (ed.), in press
- A. Santosuosso, B. Bottalico, Autonomous Systems and the Law: Why Intelligence matters. A European Perspective, in press
- A. Santosuosso,  Diritto, scienza, nuove tecnologie, Cedam, Padova, II ed. 2016.
- B. Bottalico, “Workplace Technological Innovation: What Role for the Law?, in: A. Santosuosso, O. Goodenough, M. Tomasi (eds), The Challenge of Innovation in Law. The Impact of Technology and Science in Legal Studies and Practise, Pavia University Press, 2015.
- A. Santosuosso, C. Boscarato, F. Caroleo, Robot e diritto: una prima ricognizione, in NGCC, luglio-agosto 2012, pp. 494-516.

Activities in the field:

- Innovating Legal Studies and Practise Winter School, 2017  
- The EANL Law, Cognitive Neuroscience & new Technologies Summer School 2016
- RockEU – Robotics Coordination Action for Europe 2014-2016
Technical report available here:

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