Alex Mayer MEP for East of England visited Cranfield University today to tap into the university’s expertise in autonomous systems and their safe integration with humans ahead of a European Parliament vote this month.

The legal status of robots is under review. As robots become more autonomous, the less owners or manufacturers can be held legally accountable for the machines’ actions. The proposed European law focuses on managing this, including proposing an advisory code of conduct for robotics engineers, aimed at guiding the ethical design, production and use of robots.

Cranfield University has wide experience in autonomy, autonomous systems and their safe integration with humans, which Alex Mayer wanted to access, to inform her more fully about surrounding issues ahead of the European Parliament’s vote. 

The MEP met with Professor Antonios Tsourdos, Head of the Centre for Autonomous and Cyber-Physical Systems, and Dr Sarah Fletcher, Senior Research Fellow in Industrial Psychology and Human Factors, who shared recent technological advances and developed thinking around human/robot interaction. Alex Mayer MEP was also shown Cranfield’s Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles (UAV) laboratory, used for UAV flight tests and the Intelligent Automation Laboratory where human/robot collaborative working is researched.

  • Create a European agency for robotics and artificial intelligence;
  • Set a legal definition of “smart autonomous robots”, with a system of registration for the most advanced of them;
  • Propose an advisory code of conduct for robotics engineers, aimed at guiding the ethical design, production and use of robots;
  • Set a new mandatory insurance scheme for companies to cover any damage caused by their robots.

Ms Mayer said:As the technology surrounding robotics advances, it is important that legislation keeps up, that is why I am so pleased to have been invited to Cranfield University to see the cutting-edge of robotic design and talk to the experts in this field.”

Professor Tsourdos commented: “We are happy to share information with Alex Mayer MEP ahead of this piece of legislation, based on our expertise in autonomy, autonomous systems and their safe integration with human operators.”

Alex Meyer MEP
Alex Meyer MEP with FUNUC robot

Notes for editors

Cranfield Aerospace

Cranfield is the number one university in Europe for aerospace and the only university in the world to own and run an airport and to have airline status. We have been at the forefront of aerospace technology for 70 years.

As the UK's most business-engaged University, we have long-term relationships and close commercial partnerships with many companies in the sector including Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

Our education, research and consultancy is enhanced by our world-class facilities including the National Flying Laboratory Centre - a unique national asset which provides a hands-on, flying experience, along with flight deck simulators and industrial-scale gas turbine engine test facilities used for performance and diagnostic studies. The Aerospace Integration Research Centre, a new £35 million innovative research centre which will change the design of future aircraft, is currently under construction and will open later this year.

Notable Cranfield alumni include Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce plc and Ralph Hooper, who attended the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield in 1946 and went on to become one of the UK’s most important post-war aircraft designers, creating the Hawker Harrier jump jet.  

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.