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Safe and Trustworthy Autonomous Assistive Robots (STAARs)


Dr. Kerstin Eder, Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering (FEN)
Dr. Ute Leonards, Senior Lecturer, School of Experimental Psychology, Faculty of Science (FOS)
Mr Andrew Charlesworth, Reader, School of Law, Faculty of Social Sciences and Law (FOSSL)

The development of autonomous assistive robots challenges engineering and introduces new ethical, societal and legal issues. One fundamental concern is whether such robots can be trusted. Essential components of trustworthiness are usefulness, safety and predictability. Demonstrable trustworthiness is a prerequisite for such robots to pass product certification. How this can be done is an open research question. The Safe and Trustworthy Autonomous Assistive Robots (STAARs) workshops are designed to kick-start collaboration between experts from Engineering (Computer Science, Robotics, Avionics, Mechanical and Systems Engineering), Science (Psychology) and Social Sciences and Law to take a lead in tackling the multi-disciplinary intellectual challenges surrounding this question. We are convinced that a holistic systems approach is required, one that informs engineering decisions during the design stage and thereby enables engineers to meet ethical, societal and legal requirements as well as certification standards from the outset (as opposed to addressing these afterwards). The STAARs initiative nurtures a new area of cross-disciplinary research that, whilst drawing on several mature areas, is largely unexplored territory at present. There is a growing interest in robotics and certification is a hurdle yet to be overcome before many products that already exist in labs can be unlocked for mass production. This is the right time to identify and address the intellectual challenges that lead to safe and trustworthy autonomous assistive robots.

The objectives of the STAARs workshops are to establish new collaborations, to shape a new research agenda for STAARs and to compile an initial position paper covering the state of the art and intellectual challenges in this field. The workshop series is designed to build productive and lasting collaborations locally, nationally and internationally. The STAARS workshops bring together a set of researchers from diverse backgrounds with a common interest. Participation at these workshops is expected to spark a major new initiative on Safe and Trustworthy Autonomous Assistive Robots at the University of Bristol.

Initially, a series of three seed workshops is planned over nine months, exact dates to be confirmed.

Workshop 1: "STAARS - Understanding the State of the Art and existing Barriers/Hurdles to Certification"
Contributors include the members of the STAARs initiative at the University of Bristol and external speakers including Prof WINFIELD (UWE), Prof PIPE (Deputy Director BRL) and Dr WITKOWSKI (Imperial College) as well as Dr HARPER who is a professional certification expert. The aim of the 1st STAARs workshop is to draft a position paper on the state of the art.

Workshop 2: "STAARs - Intellectual Challenges and Research Agenda"
This workshop identifies intellectual challenges that give rise to a new multi-disciplinary research agenda towards safe and trustworthy autonomous assistive robots. Several guest speakers have been invited, including national and international experts. The draft position paper from the first workshop will be refined at the second workshop.

Workshop 3: "Consolidation and Action Plan for the STAARs Initiative"
The third workshop is a University of Bristol internal event to consolidate, to finalize our position paper and to form an action plan and strategy for taking STAARs at the University of Bristol to the next stage.

Workshop 4: "Reaching out beyond academia"
This workshop will be sponsored by the Microelectronics iNet and is set up to reach beyond the academic community to engage with industry, standardization bodies and other interested parties, e.g. from the entertainment and education sectors.

For more information about this workshop series, please contact Dr. Kerstin Eder .