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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Postgraduate Course: Regulation of autonomous systems: the law of robotics (LAWS11338)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course introduces students to the legal and wider regulatory issues raised by the increasing use of automated and autonomous devices in all fields of life. As we increasingly allow machines to make decisions for us, this raises significant problems for our legal concepts of liability, responsibility and legal personhood. Since robots rely on sensors to perform their tasks, they also raise issues of data protection and privacy.

The course discusses amongst other applications the regulatory issues of care/companion robots in a medical setting, self-driving cars and the automated city; and military applications such as drones. The course covers both embodied artificial intelligent systems ("robots") and non-embodied devices ("autonomous agents"). Legal ramifications of these technologies are studied also with a view on their political, economic and ethical implications. To address the legal issues raised by robot mobility, special attention will be given to efforts to create an international legal regime or at least to harmonise existing national approaches. In this context, students will be particularly encouraged to contribute their experience with their home jurisdiction to the debate.

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the specific legal issues that are created by a number of particularly important applications of robotics and autonomous agent technology, students will also acquire a generic understanding of the types of problems that are raised by autonomous technologies for the theory of regulation. They will gain an understanding of the limits of regulation by law and the ability to evaluate comparatively other modes of regulation for a given problem.

The aims of this course are to:

1. broaden understanding of the legal issues created by autonomous technologies, and an awareness of the range of legal issues that are affected;

2. provide extensive knowledge of existing legal responses, both through legislation and relevant case law;

3. enhance knowledge of legislative initiatives and reform proposals both nationally and internationally;

4. provide extensive, detailed and critical knowledge of the legal issues created by one or more applications of autonomous technologies for law and legal regulation;

5. provide a rigorous understanding of the interaction between economic, psychological, political , societal and ethical issues that regulators face when dealing with autonomous technologies;

6. improve understanding of the different modes of regulation that are available for regulators tackling autonomous technologies, and their interaction; and:

7. provide critical awareness of emerging issues that are likely to require legal solutions in the near future.
Course description 1. Robots, autonomous agents and the law: a historical introduction
2. The science of robotics: basic concepts and ideas
3. Machine imitating man: an introduction to Artificial Intelligence
4. Unembodied AIs and private law: automated contract formation, online auctions and virtual companies
5. Unembodied AI and criminal law: online surveillance
6. Embodied AI: driverless cars and their regulation
7. Embodied AI: drones and other military applications; robots in the law of armed conflicts
8. Embodied AI: care robots and the elderly; medical law and ethics meets robotics
9. Regulating robots: paradigms and projects
10. Emerging issues in robotics and the law
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Please contact the online learning team at
Additional Costs Students must have regular and reliable access to the internet.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 40, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 156 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) One essay of up to 4,000 words (60%); one individual assignment (20%); a portfolio of contributions made to weekly online discussions throughout the semester (20%)

Requirements for all course assessments will be outlined to students within the individual courses at the start of each semester.
Feedback Students will have the opportunity to obtain formative feedback over the course of the semester. The feedback provided will assist students in their preparation for the summative assessment.

Details of the School's feedback policy will be available at the start of the course.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the novel legal issues raised by robotics;
  2. Analyse specific intended applications of robots, and identify any legal concerns they may raise;
  3. Have in-depth knowledge of the state of the art in regulating robot technology and feel confident to suggest improvements and revisions;
  4. Understand the scope and limits of legal regulation of robotics, and appreciate the non-legal approaches such as industrial standards, market competition, design/architecture and insurance regimes.
Reading List
A detailed list of key resources will be available at the start of the course.
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students will develop their skills and abilities in:
1. Research and enquiry, through e.g. selecting and deploying appropriate research techniques;
2. Personal and intellectual autonomy, e.g. developing the ability to independently assess the relevance and importance of primary and secondary sources;
3. Communication, e.g. skills in summarising and communicating information and ideas effectively in written form;
4. Personal effectiveness, e.g. working constructively as a member of an online community;
5. Students will also develop their technical/practical skills, throughout the module, e.g. in articulating, evidencing and sustaining a line of argument, and engaging in a convincing critique of another¿s arguments.
Special Arrangements This course is taught by online learning.
Additional Class Delivery Information This course is taught by online learning.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Burkhard Schafer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2035
Course secretaryMs Clare Polson
Tel: (0131 6)51 9704
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