New research to explore policy design to manage growing presence of robots in public spaces

Monash University researchers grant to explore how policy design can ensure robots operate safely in public space and protect public interests. 

With robots increasingly appearing in public spaces in Australia, Monash University researchers have been awarded a grant of $608,385 from the Australian Research Council to explore how policy design can ensure robots operate safely in public space and protect public interests. 

Professor of Public Policy and Director of Better Governance and Policy at Monash University Michael Mintrom said we are on the cusp of a boom in robots operating in public spaces. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a large increase in new robotics applications around the world. Even though robots are already being introduced in many cities around the world, very little is known about the attitudes of urban residents towards robots in public spaces,” Professor Mintrom said. 

“A significant knowledge gap exists concerning the broader social impacts of the growing presence of robots in public spaces. We need new policy design approaches that can account for the disruptive potential of robots in public spaces, while enabling their potential benefits.”

The project will involve design workshops where researchers, citizens, and policy designers will together explore new means of guiding how robots impact on public spaces. 

Researchers hope the project’s findings generate new knowledge to inform policy design. That knowledge could assist Australian governments and regulators to better anticipate the effects of wider use of robots and plan policies to encourage good outcomes for all, as well as providing important insights for Australia’s robot industry.

Researchers will hold annual symposia to share and test emerging findings, with the project culminating in an international symposium to promote project findings to academic and industry representatives.

The project is jointly led by Monash University’s Professor Michael Mintrom, Professor Lisa Grocott, Associate Professor Shanti Sumartojo as well as Professor Sally Wyatt from Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

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