Photo courtesy of Ottawa Tourism

Conference Venue
Hotel Information
Author Resources
PHM Topics
PHM Publication
The Reliability Society

Autonomous Technologies and their Societal Impact

2016 IEEE International Conference on Prognostics and Health Management (PHM’16)
Full Day Workshop
Monday, June 20, 08:30–16:30
Venue: River Building at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Organizer: Raj Madhavan
Founder & CEO, Humanitarian Robotics Technologies, LLC, Maryland, U.S.A.
Distinguished Visiting Professor of Robotics, AMMACHI Labs, Amrita University, India

The confusion and concerns surrounding autonomous technologies and their societal impacts, for e.g., self-driving cars, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and robots equated to job losses, only fuel the speculation of their negative effects while making the associated discussions imbalanced and skewed. It is irrefutable that these technologies/systems are evolving at a rapid pace and that they have the potential to transform and positively impact the lives of humanity by elevating their quality of lives. Perhaps equally undeniable is the confusion surrounding such (autonomous) technologies. For instance, several federal aviation agencies around the world are formulating guidelines on how the airspace should be regulated with respect to UAVs (drones). Although several exemptions and licenses have been granted to public and private entities, it is still a gray area with respect to safety, security, and privacy issues on what constitutes a violation, and how violators are to be prosecuted (this equally applies to self-driving cars). Another significant debate that has been raging is the undesirable effects of automation and its impact on jobs. While there is truth in the argument that robots and automation are taking jobs away in the short-term, a balanced and objective treatment on this subject has been sorely lacking.

Such debates would no doubt require input from technologists, policymakers, and end-users alike, and as such, the research and development, user, and regulatory communities have a responsibility and a role to play in order to arrive at clear-cut policies and procedures. What is clearly missing, thus, is a concerted effort between technologists and public policymakers on how to identify gaps, barriers, and initiate a dialog between different stakeholders from industry, academia, and government to arrive at a mutually agreeable blueprint that quells concerns arising from privacy, security, safety, and ethical issues while not impeding innovation and technological progress.

To address the aforementioned issues, a new IEEE Future Directions Committee Incubation Project entitled Autonomous Technologies and their Societal Impact has recently begun to bring together industry, academia, and government to understand the current and future implications of autonomous technologies via workshops and panel discussions consisting of presentations and panel discussions from leaders and experts in technological, legal, and public policy fields. Based on the discussions before, during, and after these workshops, a White Paper consisting of ‘valid’ and ‘balanced’ concerns reflecting the state-of-the-art with an emphasis on technology and public policy issues that are representative of various stakeholders from across the globe will be published towards the end of 2016. The findings and summaries will be made available via the FDC website for other initiatives and similar efforts to use them as a reference guide to foster discussions within the community and to foster best practices.

First in the series, this Workshop is intended to bring together researchers, practitioners, and agencies involved in areas related to autonomous technologies and their impact on society. The proposed Workshop will allow for the identification of the type of autonomous systems that require further attention in terms of their effect in impacting humanity and discussion on their societal impact in both positive and negative ways. Emphasis will be placed not only on technology and public policy issues but also on environmental, cultural, structural, political, and socio-economic factors.

Topics of Interest
The workshop will consist of invited keynotes and regular presentations from different perspectives and views, including but not limited to:

  • Autonomous Technologies: Robotics & Automation Systems
  • Socio-economic Aspects of Autonomous Technologies
  • Legal/Liability & Rules/Regulatory Aspects
  • Ethical and Moral Aspects
  • Societal Impact in Developed Vs. Developing Economies
  • Roles of Academia, Government, Industry, and End-users

Workshop Format

Sufficient Q&A time will be allotted to facilitate discussions after each talk. In addition, there will be a moderated session where the invited speakers and the audience members will be able to engage via a panel discussion. The topics for the panel discussion will be picked during the course of the day as speakers present their work and audience members engage in a dialog with the speaker(s) after each talk. Students and young researchers will immensely benefit from such exchanges and ideas as a result of hearing from field workers and domain experts in other fields on possible extensions and applications of their work in domains that they may not have previously considered. Coffee breaks and lunch will facilitate informal interactions between the speakers and the audience.

FDC-ATSI @ PHM’16 Program

AM Session 0830 – 1130

0830–0840 Welcome & Introduction
0840–0910 Autonomous Systems and their Societal Impact (Raj Madhavan)
0910–0945 Keynote #1: Technology & Robotic Governance: Shaping a Sustainable Future for a Generation ‘R’ growing up as Robotic Natives (Dominik Boesl)
0950–1005 Coffee Break
1005–1030 International Institutions and Robots (Aaron Mannes)
1030–1055 The Ethical, Legal and Security Implications of Autonomous Systems on the Battlefield (Maaike Verbruggen)
1055–1130   Keynote #2: Balancing the Innovation: Regulation Dichotomy for Autonomous Technologies (Jack Chow)

 Lunch              11301300

PM Session 1315 – 1630     

1315-1350 Keynote #3: Assistive Robotics: Does Quality of Life Really Matter? (François Boucher)
1350–1415  Searching for the Elusive Interdisciplinary Babel Fish: Translation Work at the Intersection of Ethics, Governance and Automation Technologies (Jason Millar)
14301445 Coffee Break
1445–1510 Challenges in Assessing Failure Probabilities and Limits of Predictability of Safety-Critical Autonomous Systems (Joachim Iden)
1515–1615 Panel Discussion + Q&A (Moderator: Raj Madhavan)
1615–1630 Closing Remarks & Adjourn


Organizer's Biography
Raj Madhavan is the Founder & CEO of Humanitarian Robotics Technologies, LLC, Maryland, U.S.A. and a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Robotics with AMMACHI Labs at Amrita University, Kerala, India. He has held appointments with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (March 2001-January 2010) as an R&D staff member based at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (March 2002-June 2013), and as an assistant and associate research scientist, and as a member of the Maryland Robotics Center with the University of Maryland, College Park (February 2010-December 2015). He received a Ph.D. in Field Robotics from the University of Sydney, an ME (Research) in Systems Engineering from the Australian National University, and a BE in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the College of Engineering, Anna University in 2001, 1997, and 1995, respectively. Over the last 20 years, he has contributed to topics in field robotics, and systems and control theory. His current research interests lie in humanitarian robotics and automation – the application and tailoring of existing and emerging robotics and automation technologies for the benefit of humanity in a variety of domains, including unmanned (aerial, ground) vehicles in disaster scenarios. He is particularly interested in the development of technologies and systems that are cost effective, reliable, efficient and geared towards improving the quality of lives of people in under-served and underdeveloped communities around the globe. He has edited three books and four journal special issues, and has published over 185 papers in archival journals, conferences, and magazines. He has served as an invited independent judge for robotics competitions, has given numerous invited presentations in research organizations in several countries, has served on editorial boards and program committees of premier robotics, automation, and control conferences, and on several national and international panels and review boards.
Within IEEE, Dr. Madhavan was the Founding Chair of the IEEE Washington/Northern Virginia Section Robotics Automation Society (2007- 2009; 2010 Best Chapter of the Year Award) and Sensors Council Chapters (2008-2009). He is a senior member of IEEE and is currently active within IEEE in the following roles: Member, TAB Future Directions Committee & Chair of the FDC Incubation Project on Autonomous Systems and their Societal Impact; Vice Chair, Assessment & Best Practices, Humanitarian Activities Committee; Member, SIGHT Steering Committee; Chair, Partnerships Subcommittee, SIGHT; and Co-Chair of the Economics of Machine Automation and Humanitarian Activities, IEEE-SA Policy Advisory Group on AI & Ethics. Within the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, he served as the Founding Chair of the Technical Committee on Performance Evaluation and Benchmarking of Robotics and Automation Systems, TC-PEBRAS (2009-2011), Founding Chair of the Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge, HRATC (2014, 2015), Vice President of the Industrial Activities Board (2012-2015), Chair of the Standing Committee for Standards Activities (2010-2015), and since 2012 is the Founding Chair of the Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (RAS-SIGHT). He is the 2016 recipient of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society’s Distinguished Service Award for his “distinguished service and contributions to RAS industrial and humanitarian activities”.

Keynote #1
Dominik Boesl
Technology & Robotic Governance - Shaping a Sustainable Future for a Generation ‘R’ growing up as Robotic Natives
Humankind is facing disruptive technological innovation, e.g., in the fields of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence. These changes will prove to have at least as much impact on society over the next half a century as the Internet and mainstream IT technology had over the last 50 years. As we are facing a great chance of addressing possibly arising issues in advance – involving self-regulation in the sense of Technology Governance – these challenges have to be discussed on a broad, fact based and interdisciplinary level. The talk will discuss the future of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence. It will explain, why our grandchildren will grow up as the first Generation ‘R’ of Robotic Natives and suggest the concept of Technology & Robotic Governance as a means of self-regulation when dealing with these disruptive technologies.

MacHD:Users:rajmadhavan:Desktop:PHM2016:WS_Agenda:Abstracts_Bios:DominikBosl.jpgBiography Dominik Boesl has been responsible for Innovation and Technology Management at KUKA since he joined KUKA Laboratories in 2011 as Head of Corporate Strategy and Member of the Board. Since 2012, he works as Corporate Innovation Manager in the CTO Office at KUKA AG and has the responsibility for all innovation efforts for the whole KUKA group. He started his career in 1999 at Siemens and helped to establish the foundations for today's mobile ecosystem by bringing the first UMTS broadcasting cell to market, before joining Microsoft Germany in 2005. At Microsoft, he held various leading positions with national responsibility in developer evangelism. Instead of moving to Seattle and joining Microsoft Corporation at a leading position in program management, he joined the KUKA group.  He graduated with a diploma in computer science from the University of Augsburg and a MBA degree from the University of Pittsburgh.  Besides his career, he has constantly been working as a lecturer at different Universities, within Munich Technical University (TUM), and is author of technical and scientific publications. At TUM School of Education, he is researching on “Technology & Robotic Governance”: the ethical, moral, socio-cultural, -political and -economic implications of technologies, as robotics, automation and artificial intelligence on humankind.

Keynote #2
Jack Chow
Balancing the Innovation - Regulation Dichotomy for Autonomous Technologies
Governments are polycentric aggregations of power and authorities distributed in ways that make coordination and collaboration difficult among disparate agencies.  The acceleration and proliferation of autonomous technologies are straining policymaking mechanisms to respond in ways that enhance opportunities yet manage risks.  While national policymaking frameworks are still in nascent stages of development, a global policy architecture is also essential to reconcile the multitudes of interests that will arise in the public, private, and NGO sectors.


MacHD:Users:rajmadhavan:Desktop:PHM2016:WS_Agenda:Abstracts_Bios:JackChow.pngBiography Jack C. Chow, former U.S. Ambassador, served as the Special Representative for Secretary of State Colin Powell on HIV/AIDS and global health policy and further served as Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization on major pandemic policy.  He is currently Distinguished Service Professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Public Policy, and Distinguished Faculty Fellow at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Affairs. He was appointed a 2013 Advanced Leadership Fellow at Harvard University in support of his research on strategic policy designs.  He authored “Predators for Peace” for Foreign Policy magazine and “The Case for Humanitarian Drones” for the Canadian International Council. 


Keynote #3
François Boucher
Assistive Robotics: Does Quality of Life Really Matter?
A quadriplegic using a Kinova assistive robot on its power wheelchair recently wrote: “With the arm, I’m feeling a new life. Because of it, I’m feeling free and a new man.” Nowadays, robots are starting to evolve from improving manufacturing capabilities of industries to quality of life of individuals. Changing lives is the daily motivation of every Kinovians, but introducing a robot in a blue ocean market like assistive robotics comes with a whole range of unexpected challenges. While the key word to succeed in today’s world economy is innovation, most of the current governmental, regulatory and legal structures are not suited to easily adopt new technologies. Moreover, Kinova’s economical model is based on reducing caregiver’s hours. It brings the question on what’s more important: Quality of Life, Return On Investment or preserving jobs? This presentation will highlight the creativity needed to get user, clinical, regulatory and reimbursement approval for business success without following the traditional paths.

MacHD:Users:rajmadhavan:Desktop:PHM2016:WS_Agenda:Abstracts_Bios:FrancoisBoucher.jpgBiography François Boucher is the VP Business Development at Kinova Inc. in Montreal, Canada. He received his MBA and a Bachelor degree in Physics Engineering from Laval University. After his graduation, he worked as the General Manager of a technology transfer and investment company before integrating Kinova in its early days to develop the service robotics market. In 2014 & 2015, Kinova has been listed as one of the 50 most influential public and private companies in the global robotics industry by the Robotics Business Review. Through his passion for robotics, he continues to have an eye towards identifying new opportunity and driving business growth and requirements for product development. He can be contacted at


Contributed Talks

Aaron Mannes
International Institutions and Robots 
As robotic systems become increasingly ubiquitous and sophisticated, they will pose new challenges to governments. However, those challenges will not stop at national borders. In the current era of globalization, with its rapid movement of goods and services – and almost instantaneous movement of information – international governmental organizations (IGOs) will also need to adapt to this new technology. This paper will provide an overview of the roles and structures of IGOs, a discussion about the kinds of issues robotics will raise for IGOs, and how IGOs may need to adapt to this new technology.  This paper was written with the support of HSARPA, however, in no way should anything stated in this paper be construed as representing the official position of HSARPA or any other component of the Department of Homeland Security. Opinions and findings expressed in this paper, as well as any errors and omissions, are the responsibility of the author alone. 

Biography Aaron Mannes is an American Association for the Advancement of Science Technology Policy Fellow with the Apex Data Analytics Engine at the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects MacHD:Users:rajmadhavan:Desktop:PHM2016:WS_Agenda:Abstracts_Bios:Aaron Mannes.jpgAgency. Dr. Mannes earned his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy in 2014. His dissertation topic was the evolving national security role of the vice president. From 2004 to 2015 Dr. Mannes was a researcher at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) where he was the subject matter expert on terrorism and international affairs collaborating with a team of inter-disciplinary scientists to build computational tools to support decision-makers facing 21st century security and development problems. At UMIACS Dr. Mannes co-authored numerous papers and two books on using computational tools to understand and counter terrorism. Dr. Mannes is the author of Profiles in Terror: The Guide to Middle East Terrorist Organizations (Rowman & Littlefield 2004), and has written scores of articles, papers, and book chapters on an array of topics including Middle East affairs, terrorism, technology, and other international security issues for popular and scholarly publications including Politico, Policy Review, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, The Journal of International Security Affairs, The Huffington Post, The National Interest, The Jerusalem Post, and The Guardian. Dr. Mannes can be reached through his website


Maaike Verbruggen
The Ethical, Legal and Security Implications of Autonomous Systems on the Battlefield
The topic of autonomous systems has recently become an important concern for the international security community. The question whether Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) (or “Killer Robots”) should be regulated is currently under discussion at the United Nations within the framework of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (UNCCW). This presentation will provide an overview of the diplomatic and humanitarian debate on LAWS and discuss the ethical, legal and security implications of their introduction on the battlefield.

MacHD:Users:rajmadhavan:Desktop:PHM2016:WS_Agenda:Abstracts_Bios:Maaike Verbruggen SIPRI headshot.jpgBiography Maaike Verbruggen works at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on issues related to the emerging military and security technologies. She currently works on a research project looking at the development of autonomous capabilities in weapons systems. This project is intended to provide background information to the on-going discussion Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems at the United Nations.



Jason Millar  
Searching for the Elusive Interdisciplinary Babel Fish – Translation Work at the Intersection of Ethics, Governance and Automation Technologies
There is a growing consensus that emerging automation technologies (robotics and AI) pose unique design, ethics and governance challenges. There is also a growing recognition that meeting these new challenges will require novel collaborations between engineers, designers, applied ethicists, lawyers and policymakers, both in the design room and beyond. However, these groups speak different languages in their professional spheres, meaning we will need to successfully translate between them in order to find a way forward. In this presentation, I’ll reflect on the translation work that I have been involved in over the past 12 years, and offer some thoughts on where we’ve been, where we are today, and where we need to get to if we are to overcome these challenges and enjoy the many societal benefits that automation technologies promise.

MacHD:Users:rajmadhavan:Desktop:PHM2016:WS_Agenda:Abstracts_Bios:JasonMillar.JPGBiography Jason Millar is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, where he researches the ethics and governance of robotics and automation technologies. In addition, he teaches philosophy at Carleton University (Ottawa) and is the Chief Ethics Analyst at the Open Roboethics Initiative (ORi). He has a degree in engineering physics, and worked for several years designing telecommunications and aerospace electronics before turning his full-time attention to issues in applied ethics, philosophy and technology. Jason has authored book chapters, reports, and articles on robot ethics, design ethics, privacy, and science and technology policy. His work on design ethics and autonomous cars has been featured internationally in the media. He is co-author of chapters in two forthcoming books: Robot Law, edited by Ryan Calo, Ian Kerr, and Michael Froomkin; and The Oxford Handbook on the Law and Regulation of Technology, edited by Roger Brownsword, Eloise Scotford and Karen Yeung.

Joachim Iden
Challenges in Assessing Failure Probabilities and Limits of Predictability of Safety-Critical Autonomous Systems
Safety-critical autonomous systems with high societal impact like self-driving cars and fully autonomous industrial robots will integrate a number of complex technologies, each contributing to the residual failure potential of the overall system. Safety approval of such systems cannot solely rely on field experience. The ideal goal would be to demonstrate the safety of an autonomous system by a combination of design principles amenable to validation by formal methods and quantification of residual error and failure probabilities. However, this goal may not always be fully achievable. We will point out hardware and software layers contributing to the overall failure potential and conclude that a risk assessment must be aware of those contributing factors that cannot be immediately quantified in an analytic way, including possibilities for novel ways of malicious manipulation and unforeseen effects of interaction with the environment.


MacHD:Users:rajmadhavan:Desktop:PHM2016:WS_Agenda:Abstracts_Bios:JoachimIden.pngBiography Joachim Iden is with the Functional Safety section of TUV Rheinland Japan. His work involves assessing and testing safety-related systems like industrial controllers, safety monitoring systems for industrial machinery and robots as well as safety communication networks. He is also a trainer for courses on the application of IEC 61508, IEC 62061 and ISO 13849 and auditor for functional safety management systems. He graduated from the University of Tuebingen (Germany) with a degree in physics in 1991. He can be contacted at




Last site update: 2016-05-23
Home | Call For Papers | Conference Venue | Hotel Information | Author Resources | PHM Topics | PHM Publication | Committees | The Reliability Society | Feedback