European Commission outlines new legal framework for Artificial Intelligence

by Michelle Gordon
Artificial Intelligence

The European Commission has outlined new rules which aim to turn Europe into the global hub for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The first-ever legal framework on AI, combined with an updated Coordinated Plan with Member States aims guarantee the safety and fundamental rights of people and businesses, while strengthening AI uptake, investment and innovation across the EU.

New rules on machinery such as 3D printers, construction machines, industrial production lines and robots will be brought in, adapting safety rules to increase users’ trust in the new generation of products.

Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said: “On Artificial Intelligence, trust is a must, not a nice to have. With these landmark rules, the EU is spearheading the development of new global norms to make sure AI can be trusted. By setting the standards, we can pave the way to ethical technology worldwide and ensure that the EU remains competitive along the way. Future-proof and innovation-friendly, our rules will intervene where strictly needed: when the safety and fundamental rights of EU citizens are at stake.”

Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton added: “AI is a means, not an end. It has been around for decades but has reached new capacities fuelled by computing power. This offers immense potential in areas as diverse as health, transport, energy, agriculture, tourism or cyber security. It also presents a number of risks. Today’s proposals aim to strengthen Europe’s position as a global hub of excellence in AI from the lab to the market, ensure that AI in Europe respects our values and rules, and harness the potential of AI for industrial use.”

Future-proof definition of Artificial Intelligence

The new rules, which follow a risk-based approach, will be applied directly in the same way across all Member States based on a future-proof definition of Artificial Intelligence.

AI systems considered a clear threat to the safety, livelihoods and rights of people will be banned. This includes AI systems or applications that manipulate human behaviour to circumvent users’ free will and systems that allow ‘social scoring’ by governments.

High-risk AI systems including all remote biometric identification systems will be subject to strict obligations before they can be put on the market.

The rules advise that when using limited risk AI systems such as chatbots, users should be aware that they are interacting with a machine so they can take an informed decision to continue or step back.

The legal proposal allows the free use of minimal risk applications such as AI-enabled video games or spam filters.

The Commission proposes that national competent market surveillance authorities supervise the new rules, while the creation of a European Artificial Intelligence Board will facilitate their implementation, as well as drive the development of standards for AI. Additionally, voluntary codes of conduct are proposed for non-high-risk AI, as well as regulatory sandboxes to facilitate responsible innovation.

Updated Coordinated Plan

The comprehensive update of the Coordinated Plan, which was first published in 2018, proposes concrete joint actions for collaboration to ensure all efforts are aligned with the European Strategy on AI and the European Green Deal, while taking into account new challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. It puts forward a vision to accelerate investments in Artificial Intelligence, which can benefit the recovery. It also aims to spur the implementation of national AI strategies, remove fragmentation, and address global challenges.

The updated Coordinated Plan will:

  • Create enabling conditions for AI’s development and uptake through the exchange of policy insights, data sharing and investment in critical computing capacities;
  • Foster AI excellence ‘from the lab to the market’ by setting up a public-private partnership, building and mobilising research, development and innovation capacities, and making testing and experimentation facilities as well as digital innovation hubs available to SMEs and public administrations;
  • Ensure that AI works for people and is a force for good in society by being at the forefront of the development and deployment of trustworthy AI, nurturing talents and skills by supporting traineeships, doctoral networks and postdoctoral fellowships in digital areas, integrating Trust into AI policies and promoting the European vision of sustainable and trustworthy AI globally;
  • Build strategic leadership in high-impact sectors and technologies including environment by focusing on AI’s contribution to sustainable production, health by expanding the cross-border exchange of information, as well as the public sector, mobility, home affairs and agriculture, and robotics.

The new Machinery Regulation will ensure that the new generation of machinery guarantees the safety of users and consumers and encourages innovation. While the Artificial Intelligence Regulation will address the safety risks of AI systems, the new Machinery Regulation will ensure the safe integration of the AI system into the overall machinery.

The European Parliament and the Member States will need to adopt the Commission’s proposals on a European approach for Artificial Intelligence and on Machinery Products in the ordinary legislative procedure. Once adopted, the Regulations will be directly applicable across the EU. In parallel, the Commission will continue to collaborate with Member States to implement the actions announced in the Coordinated Plan.

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