US police want to give robots power to kill people

Poppy Bilderbeck

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US police want to give robots power to kill people

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock/Llewellyn/Alamy Stock Photo

A new policy proposal drafted by a US police force seeks to allow robots to use 'deadly force' against people.

Previously, robots were prohibited from being used by police as an 'Use of Force against any person'.

However, San Francisco police are now proposing they should be able to give robots the power to attack people, and even perhaps the ability to take a human life.

San Francisco police are proposing robots being able to use 'deadly force'. Credit: Zoonar GmbH/ Alamy Stock Photo
San Francisco police are proposing robots being able to use 'deadly force'. Credit: Zoonar GmbH/ Alamy Stock Photo

The previous guidance written by local lawmakers read: "Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person."

However, the policy has since been edited by San Francisco police.

It now states: "Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available to SFPD [San Francisco Police Department]."

San Francisco police clarified they only want to be able to use robots as weapons 'when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available'. Credit: Heather Drake/ Alamy Stock photo
San Francisco police clarified they only want to be able to use robots as weapons 'when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available'. Credit: Heather Drake/ Alamy Stock photo

Until now, robots have never been used as a threat to humans or their lives by San Francisco police - and subsequently have never been considered as weapons by the state's force.

However, robots have been used as weapons in other parts of the the US, such as Dallas.

Despite not being designed as an offensive weapon - instead created for clearing explosives - in 2016, a robot had explosives strapped to it and killed a sniper who had killed five officers.

A robot has previously been used as a weapon in Dallas in 2016. Credit: Eddie Gerald / Alamy Stock Photo
A robot has previously been used as a weapon in Dallas in 2016. Credit: Eddie Gerald / Alamy Stock Photo

While San Francisco police may see the introduction of weapon robots as beneficial, the policy has faced backlash online, with many taking to Twitter to question the safety of robots being used against humans in such a way.

One user said: "Software never has bugs, what can possibly go wrong…"

"This is not a new concept, it has been done in other places (Dallas TX). It is a policy to limit liability for insurance purposes, not terminator end of world stuff like everyone is implying," another argued.

A third added: "Isaac Asimov - Three Laws of Robotics..

"First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."

The robot used in the 2016 Dallas operation is called the Remotec F5A.

San Francisco police are reported by the Independent as having access to the same model and being in possession of 12 functioning robots.

The policy states they are used 'training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments'.

San Francisco police are reported as being in possession of 12 Remotec F5As. Credit: REUTERS/ Alamy Stock Photo
San Francisco police are reported as being in possession of 12 Remotec F5As. Credit: REUTERS/ Alamy Stock Photo

The local rules committee has approved the new policy, however the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is yet to sanction the updated terms.

San Francisco has never before seen such a decision surrounding the use of robots by police.

Whether the robots will now be used to attack - and even kill - humans, will be decided when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote on the matter next week.

Topics: News, US News, Robotics, Technology, World News

Poppy Bilderbeck
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