The European Commission’s Approach to AI

The European Commission has put forward a European approach to artificial intelligence to shape the conditions for its development and use.

On 25 April 2018, the Commission announced a series of measures to boost Europe's competitiveness in AI. The Commission says it will work with EU Member States to agree a coordinated plan on AI by the end of 2018.

According to the Commission, AI is one of the most strategic technologies of the 21st century and, amid fierce global competition, a solid European framework for AI is needed. The Commission’s proposed approach is built on three pillars: investing in AI, preparing for socio-economic changes, and ensuring an appropriate ethical and legal framework for the safe deployment of the technology.

How does the Commission define AI?

The paper defines AI as systems that display intelligent behaviour by analysing their environment and taking actions with some degree of autonomy to achieve specific goals. Machine learning is described as a type of AI which identifies patterns in data and applies that knowledge to new data.

What are the legal issues for AI?

The Commission has identified that EU citizens and businesses need to trust new technology and to observe a predictable legal environment providing accountability for its development and use. Depending on the technology, legal issues include safety, liability, privacy, non-discrimination, consumer protection and the impact on fundamental rights more generally.

What are the Commission’s main proposals for addressing these legal concerns?
  • European AI Alliance. By July 2018, the Commission will set up a European AI Alliance to develop common measures to encourage the use of AI, encourage investment and share best practice.
  • AI ethics guidelines. The European AI Alliance will be tasked with drafting guidelines of AI ethics by the end of 2018.
  • Safety. The Commission will report on any gaps in the EU’s existing safety and liability frameworks caused by the development of AI, the Internet of Things and robotics by mid-2019.
  • Product liability. Guidance on the interpretation of the Product Liability Directive regarding new technologies will also be published by mid-2019.
  • Empowering consumers. According to the Commission, consumers should receive clear information on AI-enabled products including being made aware when they are communicating with a machine and being able to control the data generated by AI tools. The Commission will pilot an Algorithmic Awareness Building project to support research in this area.
What else is proposed?
  • The Commission will invest around €1.5bn on research and innovation in AI by the end of 2020. Part of this investment will create a toolbox for SMEs, non-tech companies and public authorities which will include an AI-on-demand platform providing access to the latest expertise, a network of AI digital innovation hubs and industrial data platforms.
  • The Commission will systematically monitor AI developments, including policy initiatives of EU Member States and develop an AI index to measure the uptake of AI in industries and its impact on the labour market.
  • The Commission will also report on the impact of AI and robotics on the labour market by the end of 2018.
  • The Commission has separately put forward a set of initiatives to grow the amount of data that can be made available for training AI algorithms.
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