Boston Dynamics and other industry heavyweights pledge not to build war robots

The days of Spot being used as a weapons platform and trained alongside Special Forces are already ending; Atlas as a backward-looking knight of fortune will never exist. Its manufacturer, Boston Dynamics, along with five other industry leaders, announced Thursday that they will not pursue or allow arming their robots, according to a non-binding, open letter they all signed.

Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics and Unitree Robotics joined the agreement with Boston Dynamics. “We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely controlled or autonomously operated, are widely accessible to the public, and are able to navigate to previously inaccessible places where people live and work introduces new risks of harm and serious ethical issues entails,” the group wrote. “Weapons applications of these newly powerful robots will also affect public confidence in the technology in a way that will undermine the tremendous benefits they will bring to society.”

The group cites “increasing public concern in recent months, caused by a small number of people who have visibly made known their makeshift efforts to arm commercially available robots,” such as Ghost Robotics’ armed spot or the deployment of an EOD -Bomb by the Dallas PD disposal robots as IED why they felt the need to take that stand.

To that end, the industry group pledges “not to weaponize our general-purpose advanced mobility robots or the software we develop that enables advanced robotics, and we will not assist others in doing so.” Nor will they allow their customers to use platforms , which were sold to them, later turned into weapons if possible. That’s a big caveat given the long and storied history of weapons like the Toyota Technical, ex-Hilux pickups converted into DIY war machines that have been a mainstay in asymmetric conflicts since the ’80s.

“We are also committed to investigating the development of technological features that mitigate or could reduce these risks,” the group continued, but “to be clear, we are not challenging the existing technologies that nations and their governmental agencies are using, to defend and uphold their laws.” They also call on policymakers, as well as the rest of the robotics development community, to make similar commitments.

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Russell Falcon

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