New foresight review on robotics and autonomous systems: Serving a safer world

Latest foresight review from the Foundation looks at how developments in the area of robotics and autonomous systems might impact the safety and performance of the engineered assets and the infrastructures on which modern society relies

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation today launches its Foresight review of robotics and autonomous systems at the first Lloyd’s Register Foundation International Conference in London.

Download: Foresight review of robotics and autonomous systems

There is a revolution happening around us and all over the world. Smart, connected machines, or robotics and autonomous systems (RAS), are acting as tools to support us, making independent decisions and even learning. They act and sense in the real world, connected and collaborating in the internet of things, generating and enabled by large quantities of data, using artificial intelligence to reason, classify, control and interact. They have emerged from research prototypes into practical applications. Autonomous and semi-autonomous cars on our streets are one very public example. 

Prof Richard Clegg, Foundation Chief Executive said: “This review looks at robotics and autonomous systems through the lens of Lloyd’s Register Foundation. It shows how they are already being used to enhance safety and how these capabilities might grow. Its findings shine a light on the positive contribution robots will make to society, and makes the case for robots that serve a safer world.” 

The report looks forward at how developments in the area of RAS might impact the safety and performance of the engineered assets and the infrastructures on which modern society relies. It finds that research and development in RAS is proceeding at pace through public and privately funded programmes predominantly in Europe, Asia and North America. These programmes address much of the sensing, control, planning, embodiment, human interface, and collaboration technologies to realise these new and smarter tools. However, there are some important areas which need addressing if society is to see the safety benefits from the implementation of RAS, and where the Foundation may be well positioned to lead or support other international efforts. These include issues of: openness and sharing; assurance and certification; security and resilience; and of public trust, understanding and skills. 

The review was drawn together by Professor David Lane, Professor of Autonomous Systems Engineering and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, at Heriot-Watt University and the other principal authors were Dr David Bisset, iTechnic Ltd; Dr Rob Buckingham, UKAEA; Geoff Pegman, RU Robotics Ltd; and Professor Tony Prescott, University of Sheffield. The review used input from a panel of international experts who met in London in March 2016. An online consultation was also opened with respondents contributing from all over the globe. 

This report is the fifth in a series commissioned by Lloyd’s Register Foundation as part of its emerging technologies research theme. Foundation grants and programmes that have resulted from previous reviews include a £10 million research grant for the Turing Institute (The Foresight review of big data, 2014), grants totalling £9 million to three international consortia in the field of nanotechnology (Foresight review of nanotechnology, 2014), and a £10 million resilience engineering programme announced today, established by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation in partnership with global engineering and consultancy firm, Arup (Foresight review of resilience engineering, 2015). 

Download: Foresight review of robotics and autonomous systems

Lloyd’s Register Foundation International Conference 2016

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation International Conference 2016 is being held over two days in London on 13 and 14 October. The conference, titled Bringing safety to life, is the first to be held by the Foundation. It is a public event, gathering Foundation grant holders from around the world gathered to showcase the breadth, variety and impact of their work. Speakers include: 

  • Prof Sir Andre Geim, Nobel Prize Winner and Regius Professor and Royal Society Research Professor at The University of Manchester
  • Lord David Willetts, Executive Chair of the Resolution Foundation, Chair of the British Science Association 
  • Prof David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk, Professor of Biostatistics and Fellow of Churchill College at Cambridge University 
  • Dr Nancy Kete, former Managing Director of The Rockefeller Foundation leading global resilience work 
  • Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government and Head of the Government Office for Science