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What’s next for Artificial Intelligence in the EU?


While we wait for the publication of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) ethics guidelines from the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, scheduled for March 2019, we take stock of recent EU efforts to support the private and public sector in creating an enabling environment for development and application of AI and we look at what EU policy makers have in the pipeline for the rest of this legislative cycle.

Artificial intelligence can significantly improve people's lives and bring major benefits to society and the economy, through better healthcare, more efficient public administration, safer transport, a more competitive industry and more sustainable agriculture.

According to the estimates of the European Commission, the economic impact of the automation of knowledge, work, robots and vehicles will reach between €6.5 and €12 trillion annually by 2025. The benefits for the European economy are clear and for that reason the European Commission is facilitating and enhancing cooperation on AI across the EU.

However, technological advances and the increase in the use of AI opens up a number of questions in the areas of privacy, safety and the way we work. For this reason, the EuropeanCommission is putting forward a European approach to AI that will also address the sociological, ethical and legal aspects of AI development and application. The approach is based on three pillars:
  1. Being ahead of technological developments, and encouraging uptake by the public and private sectors
  2. Preparing for socio-economic changes brought about by AI
  3. Ensuring an appropriate ethical and legal framework

In April 2018, European Countries signed a Declaration of cooperation on Artificial Intelligence, agreeing to work together to increase European competitiveness in development and deployment of AI, and to catch up with the front-runners in the field, such as the US and China.

Furthermore, to guide efforts at the EU and national levels, and to make sure they fit into the EU values framework, the European Commission has appointed 52 experts from academia, civil society and industry to the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI HLEG). In the first half of 2019, the group will publish its ethics recommendation, as well as its policy and investment recommendation on how to strengthen Europe's competitiveness in AI.

In December 2018, the European Commission published a Coordinated action plan on the development of AI in the EU, a result of joint work with Member States on identifying what needs to be done to increase investment, pool data, foster talent and ensure trust. This action plan will also serve as a reference point to Member States in developing their own AI strategies and action plans in the course of this year.

For its part, the EU will invest €1.5 billion under Horizon 2020 in the next 2 years,and has proposed another €7 billion to be channeled to this area from the next EU budget though Horizon Europe and the Digital Programme. The European Commission expects that, by 2020, €20 billion combined public and private investment will go towards development of AI and the acquisition of advanced digital skills including AI-specific expertise. 

Still in the pipeline for 2019 are the guidance document on the interpretation of the Product Liability Directive and a report on the broader implications for, potential gaps in, and orientations for the liability and safety frameworks for artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and robotics[1].

What has already been done?

January 2017 The European Parliament called on the European Commission to assess the impact of AI and made wide-ranging recommendations on civil law rules on robotics.

May 2017 In the mid-term review of the Digital Single Market strategy, the European Commission highlighted the importance of being in a leading position in the development of AI.

May 2017 The European Economic and Social Committee issued an opinion on AI.

October 2017 The European Council invited the European Commission to put forward a European approach to Artificial Intelligence.

April 2018 European countries signed a Declaration of cooperation on Artificial Intelligence.

April 2018 The European Commission published a European Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.

May 2018 The European Commission adopted a Communication on Artificial Intelligence for Europe.

June 2018 The ITRE Committee announced the launch of an own-initiative report on a comprehensive European industrial policy on Artificial Intelligence and robotics.

June 2018 The European Commission appointed 52 experts from academia, civil society and industry to a new High-Level Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI HLG).

December 2018 The European Commission published the Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence.

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