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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
SummaryDo we need law to prevent the 'robot uprising' beloved by SF writers? Since robots rely on sensors to perform their tasks, do we need data protection to protect our privacy? The legal issues raised by autonomous agents that conclude contracts online on behalf of their owner will be discussed, as will be 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. Special attention will be given to efforts to create an international legal regime and associated proposals to standardise certain legal responses to robot technology globally.

This is a rapidly moving field, and one aim is to equip students with the skills to follow the regulatory debate, evaluate proposals and decide if their home jurisdiction can benefit from developments elsewhere. It also gives them the skills necessary to work with computer scientists, to read technical literature to the extend that this is needed for a legal evaluation, and to ask them the right type of questions
Course description The course will cover amongst other topics:
* The History of Robots and their Regulation
* Science of Robotics: Basic concepts and ideas
* Artificial Intelligence for legal practice
* Unembodied AI and private law: automated contract formation, online auctions and the question of legal personhood
* Unembodied AI and criminal law: online surveillance and privacy in an age of robotics
* Embodied AI: Driverless Cars
* Embodied AI: Drones and other military applications: Robots in the law of armed conflicts
* Embodied AI: Care robots and the elderly: medical law and ethics meets robotics
* Robots and Creativity - the IP implications of robotics
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 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture 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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