Autonomous military robots

In an earlier blog, ‘A robot in every home‘,
I commented on some of the issues related to the development of
robotics software, in particular in relation to open standards and
safety-criticality. This was in the context of domestic and industrial robots. Now it seems that the issue which is causing debate in the scientific community is prospect of deployment of autonomous decision-making military robots  (‘Robot future poses hard questions‘, BBC News).

There have been significant advances in the development of robotic systems for military applications in recent years, the DARPA Grand Challenges in 2004 & 2005 having been successful in encouraging the advancement of autonomous systems for battlefield environments. Later this year, the DARPA Urban Challenge,
as its name suggests, will present different technical challenges, as
the autonomous vehicles will need to manoeuvre in mock city
environment  "executing simulated
military supply missions while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic
circles, negotiating busy intersections, and avoiding obstacles."

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