AccommodatingTechnology – 25 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act


May 29, 2015
Kane Hall 225 (Walker-Ames Room)
Friday, May 29
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While there have been incredible advances in technology over the past quarter century, new technologies also regularly surface issues of accessibility. Join the University of Washington’s Tech Policy Lab for an afternoon roundtable where we will discuss current accessibility efforts, new technologies’ accessibility, and individual choice in the use of assistive technologies. We plan to explore topics such as: how emerging technologies like augmented reality can be assistive as well as present challenges for accessibility; efforts to crowdsource location accessibility information; and the cultural implications of assistive technologies that individuals may not wish to use, like neuroprosthetics and robotic augmentation.

How Technology Impacts Civil Liberties with Co-Director Ryan Calo


Newly-emerging technologies affect us all in a multitude of ways and today’s turned-on, always-connected world has reached an all-time high. O’Connor, president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, will discuss how the internet and interconnected world shape our lives, impact our civil liberties, and inform our daily decisions. Other panelists include Ryan Calo, faculty director of the University of Washington’s Tech Policy Lab; Racquel Russell, Director of Government Relations and Public Affairs for Zillow; and Matt Wood, the General Manager of Product Strategy for Amazon Web Services. From the Internet of Things to the wireless technologies in automobiles, the panelists will explain the range of this digital world and what steps can be made to stay plugged in, while still maintaining personal privacy and security. The panel will be moderated by Jenny Durkan, former United States Attorney and Quinn Emanuel’s Global Chair of the Cyber Law and Privacy Group. Ira Rubinstein, CDT Board of Directors, Research Fellow and Adjunct Professor at NYU School of Law will be giving a special welcome to the program.

Watch We Robot 2015


Not able to make it to We Robot 2015? Want to watch your favorite panel again? Below are links to all of the talks that made We Robot 2015 great.

WeRobot 2015 Keynote: An Evening with Tony Dyson
Tony Dyson, noted roboticist and special effects model-maker, and the builder of R2D2, discusses the future of robotics with Professor Ryan Calo of the University of Washington School of Law.

Friday, April 10

WeRobot 2015 Panel 1: “Who’s Johnny? (Anthropomorphizing Robots)”
Author: Kate Darling
Discussant: Ken Goldberg

As we increasingly create spaces where robotic technology interacts with humans, our tendency to project lifelike qualities onto robots raises questions around use and policy. Based on a human-robot-interaction experiment conducted in our lab, this paper explores the effects of anthropomorphic framing in the introduction of robotic technology. It discusses concerns about anthropomorphism in certain contexts, but argues that there are also cases where encouraging anthropomorphism is desirable. Because people respond to framing, framing could serve as a tool to separate these cases.

WeRobot 2015 Panel 2: “Robot Passports”
Author: Anupam Chander
Discussant: Ann Bartow

Can international trade law, which after all seeks to liberalize trade in both goods and services, help stave off attempts to erect border barriers to this new type of trade? The smart objects of the 21st century consist of both goods and information services, and thus are subject to multiple means of government protectionism, but also trade liberalization. This paper is the first effort to locate and analyze the Internet of Things and modern robotics within the international trade framework.

WeRobot 2015 Panel 3: “Robotics Governance”
Peter Asaro of the New School, Jason Millar of Queen’s University, Kristen Thomasen of the University of Ottawa, and David Post of the New America Foundation discuss the challenges facing governance and regulation of emerging robotic technologies.

Peter Asaro: “Regulating Robots: A Multi-Scale Approach to Developing Robot Policy and Technology”

Jason Millar, “Sketching an Ethics Evaluation Tool for Robot Design and Governance”
Kristen Thomasen, “Driving Lessons: Learning from the History of Automobile Regulation to Legislate Better Drones”

WeRobot 2015 Panel 4: “Regulating Healthcare Robots”
Authors: Drew Simshaw, Nicolas Terry, Kris Hauser, M.L. Cumming
Discussant:  Cindy Jacobs

There are basic, pressing issues that need to be addressed in the nearer future in order to ensure that robots are able to maintain sustainable innovation with the confidence of providers, patients, consumers, and investors. We will only be able to maximize the potential of robots in healthcare through responsible design, deployment, and use, which must include taking into consideration potential issues that could, if overlooked, manifest themselves in ways that harm patients and consumers, diminish the trust of key stakeholders of robots in healthcare, and stifle long-term innovation by resulting in overly restrictive reactionary regulation. In this paper, we focus on the issues of patient and user safety, security, and privacy, and specifically the effect of medical device regulation and data protection laws on robots in healthcare.

WeRobot 2015 Panel 5: “Law and Ethics of Telepresence Robots”
Authors: J. Nathan Matias, Chelsea Barabas, Chris Bavitz, Cecillia Xie, Jack Xu
Discussant: Laurel Riek

The deployment of telepresence robots creates enormous possibilities for enhanced long-distance interactions, educational opportunities, and bridging of social and cultural gaps. The use of telepresence robots raises some legal and ethical issues, however. This proposal outlines the development of a law and ethics toolkit directed to those who operate and allow others to operate telepresence robots, describing some of the potential legal ethical issues that arise from their use and offering proposed responses and means of addressing and allocating risk.

Saturday, April 11

WeRobot 2015 Panel 6: “Unfair and Deceptive Robots”
Author: Woodrow Hartzog
Discussant: Ryan Calo

What should consumer protection rules for robots look like? The FTC’s grant of authority and existing jurisprudence make it the preferable regulatory agency for protecting consumers who buy and interact with robots. The FTC has proven to be a capable regulator of communications, organizational procedures, and design, which are the three crucial concepts for safe consumer robots. Additionally, the structure and history of the FTC shows that the agency is capable of fostering new technologies as it did with the Internet. The agency defers to industry standards, avoids dramatic regulatory lurches, and cooperates with other agencies. Consumer robotics is an expansive field with great potential. A light but steady response by the FTC will allow the consumer robotics industry to thrive while preserving consumer trust and keeping consumers safe from harm.

WeRobot 2015 Panel 7: “The Presentation of the Machine in Everyday Life”
Authors: Karen Levy & Tim Hwang
Discussant: Evan Selinger

As policy concerns around intelligent and autonomous systems come to focus increasingly on transparency and usability, the time is ripe for an inquiry into the theater of autonomous systems. When do (and when should) law and policy explicitly regulate the optics of autonomous systems (for instance, requiring electric vehicle engines to “rev” audibly for safety reasons) as opposed to their actual capabilities? What are the benefits and dangers of doing so? What economic and social pressures compel a focus on system theater, and what are the ethical and policy implications of such a focus?

WeRobot 2015 Panel 8: “Operator Signatures for Teleoperated Robots”
Authors: Tamara Bonaci, Aaron Alva, Jeffrey Herron, Ryan Calo, Howard Chizeck
Discussant: Margot Kaminski

This paper discusses legal liability and evidentiary issues that operator signatures could occasion or help to resolve. We first provide a background of teleoperated robotic systems, and introduce the concept of operator signatures. We then discuss some cyber-security risks that may arise during teleoperated procedures, and describe the three main task operator signatures seek to address—identification, authentication, and real-time monitoring. Third, we discuss legal issues that arise for each of these tasks. We discuss what legal problems operator signatures help mitigate. We then focus on liability concerns that may arise when operator signatures are used as a part of a real-time monitoring and alert tool. We consider the various scenarios where actions are conducted on the basis of an operator signature alert. Finally, we provide preliminary guidance on how to balance the need to mitigate cyber-security risks with the desire to enable adoption of teleoperation.

WeRobot 2015 Panel 9: “Robot Economics”
Colin Lewis, Andra Keay, Garry Mathiason, and Dan Siciliano discuss a variety of economic benefits, consequences, and externalities posed by the widespread integration of robots into 21st century society. Much of the discussion focuses on the potential impact of robots on employment and labor markets.

WeRobot 2015 Panel 10: “Personal Responsibility and Neuroprosthetics”

Authors: Patrick Moore, Timothy Brown, Jeffrey Herron, Margaret Thompson, Tamara Bonaci, Sara Goering, Howard Chizeck
Discussant: Meg Leta Jones

This paper investigates whether giving users volitional control over therapeutic brain implants is ethically and legally permissible. We believe that it is not only permissible—it is in fact advantageous when compared to the alternative of making such systems’ operation entirely automatic. From an ethical perspective, volitional control maintains the integrity of the self by allowing the user to view the technology as restoring, preserving, or enhancing one’s abilities without the fear of losing control over one’s own humanity. This preservation of self- integrity carries into the legal realm, where giving users control of the system keeps responsibility for the consequences of its use in human hands.


Roundtable: Cyber Civil Rights and Effective Responses to ‘Revenge Porn’


Tuesday, March 3
4:00-6:00 pm Reception to follow
K&L Gates
925 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104

On Tuesday, March 3, K&L Gates and the University of Washington’s Tech Policy Lab will be co-sponsoring a roundtable on cyber civil rights and revenge porn. We have assembled a fantastic panel with speakers from K&L Gates, the Federal Trade Commission, Legal Voice and Without My Consent. With active proposals in the Washington State Legislature, a new Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project at K&L Gates, and the first FTC settlement with the operator of a ‘revenge porn’ site, the topic is ripe for engaging discussion.


David Bateman, K&L Gates LLP
Charles Harwood, Director, Northwest Region Federal Trade Commission
Colette Vogele, Without My Consent
David Ward, Legal Voice


Following the panel we will have a reception. Please join us and RSVP here.

Guest Post: UW Law School’s Technology Law and Policy Clinic: Autonomous-Vehicle Regulation – What Can and Should the States Regulate?


by Ashleigh Rhodes, Brooks Lindsay, Don Wang

As autonomous vehicles drive from fantasy to reality (and they’ve almost arrived), rules and regulations are needed to ensure this new technology is safely integrated into the country’s current transportation infrastructure. States have been wondering what they can regulate and what the federal government will preemptively regulate. In other words, what types of state autonomous-vehicle provisions will the federal government preempt (or invalidate) based on the Supremacy Clause, which holds that federal laws trup where they conflict with state laws? And, vice versa, what state provisions will survive after the federal government passes permanent AV regulations? The Uniform Law Commission (ULC) asked the University of Washington School of Law’s Technology Law and Policy Clinic to attempt to answer these questions. Below is a summary of our findings from our November, 2014 report to the ULC, The Risks of Federal Preemption of State Autonomous Vehicle Regulations. We are also working on detailed provisions recommendations to the ULC and draft legislation for Washington, all which heavily rely on our preemption conclusions below (stay tuned for these products and a blog post to follow).

Summary of Findings

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) statutory mandate to establish vehicle safety standards will likely preempt any safety regulations states adopt for autonomous vehicles, but states can expect to have authority in verifying the continued safe operation of used vehicles with after-market autonomous modifications. Furthermore, in its 2013 Preliminary Statement of Policy Concerning Automated Vehicles (Preliminary Statement), the NHTSA encouraged states to legislate and regulate in the areas of licensing, permitting, testing, and test-driver training as well as determine conditions for the operation of specific types of autonomous vehicles. The NHTSA could preempt state tort law if it conflicts with a significant regulatory objective, but it has shown little will to do so. Lastly, it is very important to note that federal authority to preempt certain state provisions does not necessarily diminish those provisions’ worth; they may provide critical interim value to states. On the other hand, such interim provisions may require a lot of work and political will for fleeting gains. The preemption question, therefore, is only the starting point for a larger judgment call by state legislators.


The NHTSA was established in 1966 when Congress enacted the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act), which sets out that the purpose and policy of the NHTSA is to “reduce traffic accidents and deaths and injuries resulting from traffic accidents.” To achieve this purpose, the NHTSA has the authority “to prescribe motor vehicle safety standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment in interstate commerce; and to carry out needed safety research and development.” In addition, the preemption provision of the Safety Act expressly states that when a federal standard is in effect, a state may only regulate the same aspect if its standard is identical to the federal standard.

A large portion of the Preliminary Statement is devoted to the NHTSA’s “Research Plan for Automated Vehicles.” Due to broad statutory definitions, all motor vehicle equipment is covered regardless of the type of technology used. Therefore, when the NHTSA completes its research in at least three to four years, it is likely to issue safety standards for vehicles originally manufactured as autonomous along with the individual equipment pieces that give the vehicle its autonomous capabilities.

Despite the NHTSA’s authority to establish guidelines applicable to after-market equipment, that authority diminishes after the first sale. Thus, it will likely continue to work with states to conduct inspections to ensure functionality in used vehicles of basic safety equipment and after-market autonomous modifications. Since it will take the NHTSA some time to complete its research into safety standards applicable to autonomous technology, its Preliminary Statement suggests basic interim principles for state laws. These include facilitating the “safe, simple, and timely” transition from self-driving mode to driver control and establishing data recording requirements to ensure safe operation of autonomous vehicles.

The Preliminary Statement specifically “recommended [eight broad] principles that States may wish to apply as part of their considerations for driverless vehicle operation, especially with respect to testing and licensing.” States can expect to fully control the permitting for test cars and drivers and the requirements for test-driver training programs. However, the NHTSA advised against states allowing autonomous vehicle operation for purposes other than testing. When autonomous vehicles have reached the level of sophistication needed for general driving purposes, states can expect to exert considerable control over long-term licensing or endorsement for consumer drivers, similar to the current scope of state highway-safety programs.

Notwithstanding the preemption provision, the Safety Act contains a common law liability clause, which stipulates that compliance with a federal standard created in accordance with the Safety Act “does not exempt a person from liability at common law [based on precedent established by previous state court rulings].” Supreme Court precedent established that this clause is only limited to express preemptions, but it does not prohibit conflict preemptions. In Geier v. Am. Honda Motor Co., the Court concluded that a state tort claim was preempted because it conflicted with the regulatory intention to provide manufacturers with options. But eleven years later in Williamson v. Mazda Motor of Am., Inc., the Court determined that state tort claims were only preempted if giving the manufacturer a choice was a “significant regulatory objective.” The Williamson decision gave lower courts guidelines to decide whether the “significant regulatory objective” standard is met, which includes reviewing the history of the regulation, the agency’s view of the regulation’s objective at the time it was promulgated, and the agency’s view at the time of litigation on the regulation’s preemptive effect. The agency’s views of the regulation can also be influenced by the Administration’s preemption philosophy.

Until the NHTSA completes its research, states can rely on the Preliminary Statement to enact testing legislation similar to that enacted in California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, and the District of Columbia. Furthermore, states that want to legislate safety standards for salable autonomous vehicles can follow Nevada’s model, which included the enactment of interim safety provisions that it assumes will be preempted by the NHTSA’s final rules. These rules are expected to take at least three to four years to complete, so states should plan accordingly.

You can see our full report to the ULC here. We are also finalizing a report with detailed provisions recommendations to the ULC as well as draft legislation for Washington state, so stay tuned for those products and an accompanying blog post.