Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

UN talks take aim at 'killer robots'
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) May 13, 2014

Oshkosh showcasing unmanned ground vehicle technology
Oshkosh, Wis. (UPI) May 13, 2013 - The use of unmanned ground vehicles in clearing roads of improvised explosive devices is being demonstrated this week by Oshkosh Defense.

The company, which makes Mine Resistant Ambush Protected all-terrain vehicles for the U.S. military, is showcasing integration of its TerraMax technology onto an MRAP at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems 2014 exhibition Florida.

TerraMax is a modular appliqué kit that enables unmanned ground vehicles to collaborate with manned vehicles. It can incorporate counter-IED payloads -- such as ground-penetrating radar and mine rollers. The system's operator control unit uses a non-proprietary, open architecture messaging standard to enable modularity and integration of new sub-systems.

The system's safety features include electronic stability control, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and electric power-assisted steering, which the company is transitioning for use in manned vehicles as well.

"The clearance of threats like IEDs, mines and unexploded munitions pose challenges that global military forces have faced since World War II, and are expected to continue long after Afghanistan," said John Urias, president of Oshkosh Defense.

"Our TerraMax UGV technology can bring autonomous capabilities to existing manned vehicle platforms, like the M-ATV, to remove troops from targeted routes and provide greater standoff distance from explosive threats," Urias added. "It also has force-multiplication benefits with one operator controlling several vehicles, so logistics operations can be successfully completed with fewer troops."

Oshkosh said the use of TerraMax in route clearance vehicles expands its effort with the U.S. Office of Naval Research to bring UGV capabilities to logistics vehicles.

Armies of Terminator-like warriors fan out across the battlefield, destroying everything in their path, as swarms of fellow robots rain fire from the skies.

That dark vision could all too easily shift from science fiction to fact unless such weapons are banned before they leap from the drawing board to the arsenal, campaigners warn.

On Tuesday, governments began the first-ever talks exclusively on so-called "lethal autonomous weapons systems" -- opponents prefer the label "killer robots".

"All too often international law only responds to atrocities and suffering once it has happened," said Michael Moeller, head of the UN Conference on Disarmament.

"You have the opportunity to take pre-emptive action and ensure that the ultimate decision to end life remains firmly under human control," he told the meeting in Geneva.

That was echoed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, guardian of the Geneva Conventions on warfare.

"There is a sense of deep discomfort with the idea of allowing machines to make life-and-death decisions on the battlefield with little or no human involvement," said Kathleen Lawand, head of its arms unit.

The four-day meeting aims to pave the way for more in-depth talks in November.

"The only answer is a pre-emptive ban," said Human Rights Watch arms expert Steve Goose.

UN-brokered talks have done that before: blinding laser weapons were banned in 1998, before they ever hit the battlefield.

Automated weapons are already deployed worldwide.

The best-known are drones, unmanned aircraft whose human controllers push the trigger from a distant base. Controversy rages, especially over the civilian collateral damage caused when the United States strikes alleged Islamist militants.

Perhaps closest to the Terminator of Arnold Schwarzenegger's action films is a Samsung sentry robot used in South Korea, able to spot unusual activity, quiz intruders and, when authorised by a controller, shoot them.

Other countries in the research vanguard include Britain, Israel, China, Russia and Taiwan.

- As revolutionary as gunpowder -

But it is the next step, the power to kill without a human handler, that rattles opponents the most.

Experts predict that military research could produce such machines within 20 years.

"Lethal autonomous weapons systems are rightly described as the next revolution in military technology, on par with the introduction of gunpowder and nuclear weapons," said Pakistan's UN ambassador Zamir Akram, warning that they would threaten world peace and security.

German ambassador Michael Biontino said human control was the bedrock of international law.

"Even in times of war, human beings cannot be made simple objects of machine action," he said.

The goal, diplomats said, is not to ban the technology outright.

"We need to keep in mind that these are dual technologies and could have numerous civilian, peaceful and legitimate uses. This must not be about restricting research in this field," said French ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, chairman of the talks.

Robots can potentially be used in firefighting and bomb disposal, while robot vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers are already common.

"We believe that such technology is not only useful, but also contributes to a safe and sound life for us all," said Japan's ambassador Toshio Sano.

Campaigner Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at Britain's University of Sheffield, said autonomy itself is not the problem.

"There is just one thing that we don't want, and that's what we call the kill function," he said.

One aim is to start sketching out the definition of a robot weapon.

US delegate Stephen Townley said the Terminator image was misleading.

"That is a far cry from what we should be focusing on, which is the likely trajectory of technological development, not images from popular culture," he said.

"The United States believes it is premature to determine where these discussions might or should lead," he added.

In 2012, Washington imposed a 10-year human control requirement on automated weapons, welcomed by campaigners even though they said it should go further.

Supporters of automated weapons say they have life-saving potential in warfare, for example being able to get closer than troops to assess a threat properly, without letting emotion cloud decision-making.

But that is precisely what worries critics.

"If we don't inject a moral and ethical discussion into this, we won't control warfare," said Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign for a treaty banning landmines.


Related Links
All about the robots on Earth and beyond!

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

DARPA-Funded DEKA Arm System Earns FDA Approval
Washington DC (SPX) May 13, 2014
DARPA launched the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program with a radical goal: gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for an advanced electromechanical prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control that enhances independence and improves quality of life for amputees. Today, less than eight years after the effort was launched, that dream is a reality; the FDA approved the DEKA Arm S ... read more

LRO View of Earth

Russia to begin Moon colonization in 2030

Astrobotic Partners With NASA To Develop Robotic Lunar Landing Capability

John C. Houbolt, Unsung Hero of the Apollo Program, Dies at Age 95

NASA wants greenhouse on Mars by 2021

Reset and Recovery for Opportunity

NASA's Curiosity Rover Drills Sandstone Slab on Mars

Mars mission scientist Colin Pillinger dies

'Convergent' Research Solves Problems that Cross Disciplinary Boundaries

Pioneering Test Pilot Bill Dana Dies at Age 83

More Plant Science as Expedition 39 Trio Trains for Departure

NASA Astronauts go underwater to test tools for a mission to an asteroid

New satellite launch center to conduct joint drill

China issues first assessment on space activities

China launches experimental satellite

Tiangong's New Mission

Russia to only use ISS until 2020: official

Ham video premiers on Space Station

NASA Seeks to Evolve ISS for New Commercial Opportunities

Astronauts Complete Short Spacewalk to Replace Backup Computer

Replacing Russian-made rocket engines is not easy

Pre-launch processing begins for the O3b Networks satellites

US sanctions against Russia had no effect on International Launch Services

SHERPA launch service deal to deploy 1200 kilo smallsat payloads

Length of Exoplanet Day Measured for First Time

Spitzer and WISE Telescopes Find Close, Cold Neighbor of Sun

Alien planet's rotation speed clocked for first time

Seven Samples from the Solar System's Birth

Exelis advancing sensor detection system

Airbus Defence and Space in radar technology study

Ultrafast laser technique developed to observe electron action

Quantum trimer -- from a distance

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.