Are you afraid of the robot apocalypse?

York is spearheading the safety of robotics and autonomous systems

As robotic and autonomous systems develop and become part of everyday life, York’s Festival of Ideas focus day  ‘Artificial Intelligence: Promises and Perils’ is exploring what AI might mean for our future health, employment and everyday life.

A 2016 report from the International Federation of Robotics revealed that the number of industrial robots deployed worldwide will increase to around 2.6 million units by 2019. That’s about one million units more than in the record-breaking year of 2015.

While safety and regulation are well understood in many areas such as airports, warehouses and hospitals, some of the organisations pushing the technological boundaries of robotics are not familiar with safe engineering practices.

Understanding this new technology and how to regulate it remains a key challenge, in particular to enable the public to have full confidence in the systems. Using robots will bring benefits, but it is not without risks. 

Meeting the Challenge

Last year the University of York secured a major new partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation dedicated to robotics safety, which is now up and running. The £12m investment will fund the Assuring Autonomy International Programme (AAIP) based at the University of York. Professor John McDermid, who is a world leader in systems and software safety engineering, will lead the programme. Its vision is to further enable the widespread and beneficial uptake of robotics by overcoming the obstacles to achieving regulatory and public acceptance.

John McDermid

“It is essential for all of us that the systems are dependable and safe. The University of York is leading this programme, focusing on assurance of robots so that the benefits can be realised, without unacceptable risk. The programme will build on York’s 30 years of pioneering research and training in this sector.”

John McDermid

Professor Richard Clegg,  Foundation Chief Executive, Lloyd’s Register Foundation, said “Robotics and autonomous systems are going to make a big impact on the sectors we serve as a charity. That is why establishing this programme with York is so important towards our purpose of working together for a safer world.”

The next generation of robotics and autonomous systems holds significant promise and opportunity for commerce and society as a whole.


The Assuring Autonomy International Programme is partnering with York Festival of Ideas for a Focus Day on the promises and perils of robotics, on 16th June.

Do you know what AI is? Would you choose to be looked after by a robotic carer? How do we live safely in a world of driverless vehicles? Find out the answers to these questions and more at the Artificial Intelligence: Promises and Perils Festival Focus Day.