Boston Dynamics and other industry heavyweights pledge not to build war robots

The half dozen companies have signed an open letter pledging not to weaponize their platforms.

Sponsored Links

The Ghost Robotics Vision 60 exhibited during the Defense Expo Korea 2022, the biggest military weapon exhibition in the country, held at KINTEX (Korea International Exhibition and Convention Center) on September 21, 2022 in Goyang city, Gyeonggi, South Korea. The exhibition has been held every two years since 2014. This year, 350 companies are participating in the expo, an increase from 210 in 2020. This year, major military officers including defense ministers from 43 countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Slovakia and Romania are visiting. (Photo by Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NurPhoto via Getty Images

The days of Spot-like robots being leveraged as a weapons platform and actual Spots training alongside special forces operators are already coming to an end; Atlas as a back-flipping soldier of fortune will never come to pass. Their maker, Boston Dynamics, along with five other industry leaders announced on Thursday that they will not pursue, or allow, the weaponization of their robots, according to a non-binding, open letter they all signed.

Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics and Unitree Robotics all joined Boston Dynamics in the agreement. "We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues," the group wrote. "Weaponized applications of these newly-capable robots will also harm public trust in the technology in ways that damage the tremendous benefits they will bring to society." 

The group cites "the increasing public concern in recent months caused by a small number of people who have visibly publicized their makeshift efforts to weaponize commercially available robots," such as the Vision 60 from Ghost Robotics, or the Dallas PD's use of an EOD bomb disposal robot as an IED as to why they felt the need to take this stand. 

Turn on browser notifications to receive breaking news alerts from Engadget
You can disable notifications at any time in your settings menu.
Not now

To that end, the industry group pledges to "not weaponize our advanced-mobility general-purpose robots or the software we develop that enables advanced robotics and we will not support others to do so." Nor will they allow their customers to subsequently weaponize any platforms they were sold, when possible. That's a big caveat given the long and storied history of such weapons as the Toyota Technical, former Hilux pickups converted into DIY war machines that have been a mainstay in asymmetric conflicts since the '80s.    

"We also pledge to explore the development of technological features that could mitigate or reduce these risks," the group continued, but "to be clear, we are not taking issue with existing technologies that nations and their government agencies use to defend themselves and uphold their laws." They also call on policymakers as well as the rest of the robotics development community to take up similar pledges. 

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publishing.
View All Comments
Boston Dynamics and other industry heavyweights pledge not to build war robots