(A.) Policy and legislation
(A.1) Policy objectives
The importance of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) lies in its strong economic contribution as an industrial and commercial activity in its own right and its broad and disruptive socioeconomic impact across diverse market sectors worldwide. Advanced robotics and autonomous (automated or fully automated) vehicles are expected to have an increasing annual economic impact.
Industrial robotics has already become a cornerstone in several of Europe’s high-value manufacturing industries, such as the automotive industry, keeping these industries in Europe. This trend must be maintained, strengthened and extended to all other main industries in Europe. Robotics technology also has an impact on a broad range of end-user markets and applications. The robotics professional and consumer service sectors are expected to achieve double-digit growth in the next decade, for example thanks to advanced manufacturing applications, and SMEs will play a key role e.g. in opening new markets. In addition to manufacturing, important future application domains for robots, with a high impact on everyday life, will include healthcare, agriculture, civil, commercial or consumer sectors, logistics and transport.
The EU actively promotes research, job creation and innovation through better and safer robots, while safeguarding ethical aspects of the progress achieved. The importance of robotics lies in its wide-ranging impact on Europe's capacity to maintain and expand a competitive manufacturing sector with millions of related jobs at stake. Robotics also offers new solutions to societal challenges from ageing to health, smart transport, security, energy and environment. The European Commission's focus is on building on our continuous effort to develop a strong scientific base for pushing the limits of the technology, and exploiting such results in real world applications.
(A.2) EC perspective and progress report
The robotics market is set to exceed 90 billion EUR by 2030, with almost 13% CAGR from 2019 (source: SMART Report 2018/0053). In 2021, robotics standardisation has continued its work in all fronts in both the International- and the European- Standardisation Organisations (ISOs, ESOs). R&D projects on robotics funded by the EU Framework for Research and Innovation set the scientific basis for new key technologies, interoperability between robots, and the use of robots to achieve societal challenges.
The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques is set to vastly improve the capacities and autonomy of robots. The European Commission published in April 2021 its proposal for a horizontal framework to regulate AI systems and, at the same time, also proposed the revised Machinery Regulation covering i.a. robotics. The use of AI as regards its possible impact on safety within any type of machinery would in principle make the machinery subject to, on the one hand the obligations set out under the proposed AI Act, and on the other hand to the revised Machinery Regulation. To consolidate the objectives, while ensuring full consistency and coherency with the AI Act, the draft Machinery Regulation is being finalised by the co-legislator to introduce specific AI categories in its high-risk list, which will lay down the specific obligations for compliance with the appropriate legislative requirements. For this purpose, the use of future harmonised standards on AI can be expected to greatly facilitate the process of demonstrating compliance with the envisioned legislative requirements. Furthermore, because of various initiatives to cooperate on global level in standardisation efforts, it will boost EU industry’s innovation and competitiveness.
The AI Act is conceived so as to smoothly interact with EU existing safety legislation (notably by avoiding unnecessary duplications). In particular the requirements of the AI Act (which are applicable to the AI system part) will be checked as part of the conformity assessment of the product foreseen under sectorial legislation (resulting in one unique conformity assessment).
In June 2021, the European Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the AI, data and Robotics Association (ADRA), setting up a public-private partnership that will support the development of the European AI, data and robotics ecosystem and uptake of AI, data and robotics solutions. By engaging stakeholders, the ADRA PPP can be a relevant forum from which to coordinate and collect needs in terms of standardisation.
Since 2019 ISO has issued seven new documents on robotics:
ISO 8373:2021 Robotics — Vocabulary
ISO 18646-2:2019 Robotics — Performance criteria and related test methods for service robots — Part 2: Navigation,
ISO 18646-3:2021 Robotics — Performance criteria and related test methods for service robots — Part 3: Manipulation
ISO 18646-4:2021 Robotics — Performance criteria and related test methods for service robots — Part 4: Lower-back support robots
ISO 22166-1:2021 Robotics – Modularity for service robots – Part 1: General requirement,
ISO/TR 23482-1:2020 Robotics — Application of ISO 13482 — Part 1: Safety-related test method
ISO/TR 23482-2:2019 Robotics — Application of ISO 13482 — Part 2: Application guidelines
Work is ongoing with eleven other ISO standards on robotics that will be published in the future.
This Rolling Plan calls for increased coordination in the standardisation work led by industry, notably through public-private partnerships.
Robotics and autonomous systems is a multidisciplinary scientific and technological domain for implementing complex systems with cognitive capabilities. These include mechatronics devices, power systems and drives, actuators, sensors, data communication systems, computer software, multi-agent technologies, signal processing techniques, artificial intelligence, semantic technologies and much more. Robots can be very small or very large and have many physical aspects; for instance, they can be similar to a crane, an arm, a snake or a human body, they can have wheels or legs, and they can be vehicles able to move on the ground, in the air or under the water. Robots can also be used for a large variety of applications including industrial manufacturing, logistics, maintenance, precision farming, autonomous driving, space exploration, surveillance, emergency and rescue, commercial services, health care, rehabilitation, assistive living, entertainment, education and social interaction.
Therefore, the number of standards that affect robotic engineering is very large. Some of the required standards address the robotics field exclusively, but robotics also inherits standards from related technological domains such as electromechanical engineering, electronics, information technologies, telecommunications, production management, geographical information and so forth.
At the worldwide level, the most active international organisation on standardisation on robotics is ISO. It has appointed a technical committee specifically devoted to robotics: ISO/TC 299 Robotics. This Committee is structured in eight working groups.
WG 1 – Vocabulary and characteristics
WG 2 – Service robot safety
WG 3 – Industrial safety
WG 4 – Service robot performance
JWG 5 – Medical robot safety (joint with IEC/SC 62A and 62D)
WG 6 – Modularity for Service Robots
WG 7 – Management system for service robots
WG 8 – Validation methods for collaborative applications
WG 9 – Electrical interfaces for industrial robot end- effectors
The following link gives a catalogue of the standards developed by the technical committee ISO/TC299:
At European level, the most active organisations are the European Committee for standardisation (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical standardisation (CENELEC). CEN & CENELEC provides European standards on robotics by means of its Sector Forum on Machinery Safety. The following link gives a list of harmonised European standards on machinery including several standards specifically designed for robotic machines:
In addition, associations such as IEEE and OCEANIS are also active in conducting technical studies and proposing standards, particularly in the area of ethics in autonomous and intelligent systems.
More generally, standardisation activities in robotics can be grouped in four main areas:
- Foundations. This set of standards covers vocabulary and characteristics that provide suitable definitions as a reference for other standards. It includes, among others, the following standards: ISO 89787 (Coordinate Systems), ISO 19649 (Vocabulary for Mobile Robots) and ISO 8373 (General terms and Definitions).
- Robotic safety. The bulk of robotic standards are connected with personal and functional safety and regulations for machinery such as EN/ISO 13849-1, IEC/EN 62061. However, the particularities of robotics and its applicability to industrial and non-industrial environments has made it necessary to develop more specific standards such as ISO/TS 15066 (Safety of collaborative robots) which builds further on EN/ISO 10218-1 and EN/ISO 10218-2 (Robots and robotic devices -- Safety requirements for industrial robots) or EN/ISO 13482 (Robots and robotic devices — Safety requirements for personal care robots), ISO/TS 15066 (Safety of collaborative robots), The increased autonomy of robots due to the adoption of Artificial Intelligence, and the application of robotics in non-industrial environments such as healthcare, agriculture, autonomous driving and private homes, must be accompanied by the revision of existing standards and the development of new safety standards addressing specific issues. As an example, the robotics community has requested recently the development of new safety standards that prescribe testing procedures for wearable robots, such as exoskeletons for rehabilitation and worker support. The last thread suggests defining a relationship between the safety and the performance characteristics of concerned products.
- Robotics system integration and interoperability. Current robots can be made up of very different functional subsystems (dynamic control, perception, navigation, task planning, trajectory planning, human interaction, etc.) that must be integrated through complex interfaces. Also, robotic systems can cooperate with other systems by means of other interfaces. Many of the standards that define these interfaces are inherited from more general domains such as electromechanical engineering and ICT. But some standards are designed to fit robotics-specific requirements, for instance ISO 9409 (mechanical interfaces) and ongoing work in ISO/TC 299/WG6 (Modularity for service robots). At least three areas need further development:
- Robot programming languages and communication protocols for robot controllers. This area is mostly dominated by proprietary standards developed by robot manufacturers, such as the robot programming languages Rapid (ABB), PDL2 (Comau), KRL (Kuka), etc. The increasing level of integration of robots in complex systems creates a need to standardise programming languages and communication protocols.
- Robot operating systems. Robot operating systems are software platforms run in conventional computers that connect various robotic subsystems (perception, control, reasoning, planning, etc.) to perform complex tasks. Strictly speaking, they are not actual operating systems, but a middleware layer. They determine and manage the environment for the interoperability of all the software components of the robotic system, irrespective of where they run (on standard computers, robot controllers or embedded systems). In the last 15 years, a number of robot operating systems have come out: ROS, Player, YARP, OROCOS, CARMEN, ORCA, MOOS, to name a few. Most have been developed and maintained as open source software by universities and non-profit research centres. The most successful ones have the potential to set the interoperability standards of the future robotic systems.
- Knowledge modelling. Robot autonomy is based on having appropriate representations of the objects that robots manipulate, the physical environment, the robot missions and the work plans. These involve a great variety of techniques such as signal processing, sensor data fusion, localization and mapping, artificial intelligence, constraint solving, and optimisation. All these techniques have something in common: they manage enormous amounts of data that must be contextualised and processed semantically. Much of this information is captured through complex sensor systems (e.g. image processing or speech recognition) but also from the web. The way how this information can be generated, processed and distributed depends on the availability of appropriate standards. There are already many standards on knowledge modelling, most of them inherited from the ICT field (e.g. SQL, JSON, XML, OWL, and RDF) and a few from other domains (e.g. ISO 10303 for product manufacturing information and ISO 11783 for precision farming), but knowledge modelling for robotics is still a research topic and lacks the stability needed to build a comprehensive set of accepted standards that cover the requirements of all potential applications.
- Ethics in Autonomous Intelligent Systems. Algorithms, sensors, big data, ubiquitous networking and technologies used in autonomous and intelligent systems are impacting our work and social environment today. The implications and consequences for our personal and social lives can lead to a loss of trust in technology from several issues. For example, there could be a loss of trust due to a perceived loss of agency over our digital identity and data, or due to ethical, transparency or accountability issues related to the operation of such systems. IEEE and others collaborating in OCEANIS have committed to identify and develop standards to address technical, societal and ethical implications of technology expansion.
- European Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC
- Directive 2001/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 December 2001 on general product safety
- COM/2021/202 final Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on machinery products
- COM/2021/206 final Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down harmonised rules on Artificial Intelligence (Artificial Intelligence Act) and amending certain Union legislative acts.
(B.) Requested actions
Action 1: Ensure coordination of standardisation efforts on robotics and autonomous systems in Europe, promoting interaction of all stakeholders taking into account their vision and real needs (i.e. through public-private partnerships), while engaging on international level to lead and export the EU’s objectives.
Action 2: Assess the need for standards for robotics in order to implement the high-level obligations in the proposed AI Act relevant for AI-powered robotics, and assess possible gaps to meet the needs of robot developers and producers to accelerate innovation and uptake.
Action 3: Promote the development of standards for risk assessment for advanced manufacturing robot applications, e.g. collaborative robotics (cobots), or service robotics.
Action 4: Standards should be developed to define the main characteristics for all levels of the interaction from mechanical to electrical to protocol to semantic levels between robot and tool to ensure the exchangeability and to enable the design of generic tooling (plug-and-play). There are 2 main types of End Effector. "Off-the-Shelf" and "bespoke". It is desirable that off-the-shelf end effectors operate on a single software protocol. There is a need for Industry 4.0 to standardise this. It would then become Plug-&-Play. For "Bespoke" end effectors (most commonly purchased) the system integrator specifies the software protocol for the Robot and End Effector.
(C.) Activities and additional information
(C.1) Related standardisation activities
The most relevant standards on robotics are led by ISO. Robotic markets are global and it does not make much sense to develop standards at national or regional level. So far, most standardisation efforts have been primarily driven by manufacturers of industrial robots and robotic components. Their engineering teams are well integrated in the various ISO technical committees. European manufacturers are very active in this field. Also, many outstanding European manufacturers of robotic components are involved in standardisation groups in their areas of expertise.
However, new players such as start-ups and SMEs developing highly innovative solutions and products suited to the next generation of robotics have not been involved in standardisation so far. Engaging and supporting them in participating in standardisation efforts and activities will strengthen Europe’s position in the robotics industry.
EU-funded R&D projects also contribute to standardisation activities but to a lesser extent because their activities tend not to last enough to match the usually long timetables of standardisation work. When European projects are involved in standardisation, it tends to be through recipients of funding that are robot or robot-component manufacturers. It is important to strengthen the ties between EU R&I projects and SDOs, bringing project results into standardisation activities.
CEN/TC 310 'Advanced automation technologies and their applications' is responsible for standardisation in the field of automation systems and technologies and their application and integration, to ensure the availability of the standards required by industry for design, sourcing, manufacturing and delivery, support, maintenance and disposal of products and their associated services. Areas of standardisation may include enterprise modelling and system architecture, information and its supporting systems, robotics for fixed and mobile robots in industrial and specific non-industrial environments, automation and control equipment and software, human and mechanical aspects, integration technologies and system operational aspects. These standards may utilise other standards and technologies beyond the scope of CEN/TC 310, such as machines, equipment, information technologies, multi-media capabilities, and multi-modal communications networks.
EN ISO 13482:2014 'Robots and robotic devices - Safety requirements for personal care robots
Together with ISO, CEN/TC 310 is revising prEN ISO 10218-1 'Robots and robotic devices - Safety requirements for industrial robots - Part 1: Robots'; and prEN ISO 10218-2 'Robots and robotic devices - Safety requirements for industrial robots - Part 2: Robot systems and integration'.
CEN/TC 114 'Safety of Machinery' develops standards of general principles for safety of machinery incorporating terminology and methodology.
CLC/TC 44X 'Safety of machinery: electrotechnical aspects'
CLC/TC 63 'Electrical equipment in medical practice' is responsible for the EN IEC 80601 series, notably EN IEC 80601-2-77 'Particular requirements for the basic safety and essential performance of robotically assisted surgical equipment' and EN IEC 80601-2-78 'Particular requirements for basic safety and essential performance of medical robots for rehabilitation, assessment, compensation or alleviation'
ISO TC on Robotics: ISO/TC 299 — Robotics.
ISO/IEC JTC 1
The work ongoing in ISO/IEC JTC 1 SC 42 on Artificial Intelligence also has an impact on Robotics. (See chapter 3.1.9 on Artificial Intelligence).
IEEE has standardisation and pre-standardisation activities in the field of robotics and automation,
- for functions like navigation as well as ethical considerations for autonomous robots, and
- for a diversity of applications in medicine, manufacturing, etc..
The Standing Committee for Standards Activities of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society has been actively working with the research and industrial communities and other Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) to identify areas for standardisation in robotics and automation.
- The ‘Robot Task Representation’ Working Group standardises ontologies for robotics and automation, e.g. IEEE 1872-2015. Ontologies include key terms as well as their definitions, attributes, types, structures, properties, constraints, and relationships. They allow reasoning and communication about tasks (P1872.1). There is ongoing work to extend IEEE 1872-2015 for Autonomous Robots (AuRs) by defining additional ontologies (P1872.2).
- The ‘Robot Map Data Representation’ Working Group has developed a standardised map data representation of environments for a mobile robot performing a navigation task (IEEE 1873-2015). It provides data models and data formats for two-dimensional (2D) metric and topological maps. The ‘Robot 3D Map Data Representation’ Working Group extends IEEE 1872-2015 to 3D (P2751).
- The ‘Ontologies for Ethically Driven Robotics and Automation’ Working Group develops a standard to establish a set of ontologies with different abstraction levels that contain definitions, axioms and concepts needed to establish methodologies for ethically driven Robots and Automation Systems (P7007).
- The Working Group ‘Ethical Nudging for Robotic, Intelligent and Autonomous Systems’ develops a standard for Ethically Driven Nudging for Robotic, Intelligent and Autonomous Systems (P7008). ‘Nudges’ are defined as overt or hidden suggestions or manipulations designed to influence the behavior or emotions. This standard establishes a delineation of typical nudges (currently in use or that could be created).
- IEEE through its Engineering Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) Standards Committee also has focused standardisation activities on medical robots. The ‘Medical Robots’ Working Group specifies terms, definitions, and classification of medical electrical equipment/systems employing robotic technology (MEERT) (P2730).
The IEEE Robotics Automation Society Standards Committee have been focusing on new areas of standardisation work including work on Human-Robot interactions
- IEEE P3107 - Standard Terminology for Human-Robot Interaction
- IEEE P3108 - Recommended Practice for Human-Robot Interaction Design of Human Subject Studies
- IEEE P2940 - Standard for Measuring Robot Agility
For more information please visit https://ieeesa.io/eu-rolling-plan
ITU-T is active on a number of work items on Artificial Intelligence which have relevance to Robotics, as well. See the mentioning in chapter 3.1.11, section C1.
ITU-T SG16 has established the Focus Group on “AI for autonomous and assisted driving” (FG-AI4AD) to focus on AI performance evaluation in autonomous and assisted driving. The group aims to create an open framework for collaboration and sharing of expertise towards international harmonisation of a universal minimal performance threshold for AI-enabled driving functions (such as AI as a Driver), which is essential to building the global public trust required for widespread deployment of AI on our roads. https://itu.int/en/ITU-T/focusgroups/ai4ad
ITU-T SG20 developed Recommendation ITU-T Y.4417 “Framework of self-organization network in the IoT environments” and is currently working on draft Recommendation on “Requirements and capability framework of IoT infrastructure to support network-assisted autonomous vehicles” (Y.IoT-AV-Reqts) and draft Recommendation ITU-T Y.4471 “Functional architecture of network-based driving assistance for autonomous vehicles” (ex Y.NDS-arch).
SG13 approved Recommendation ITU-T Y.3177 “Architectural framework for artificial intelligence-based network automation for resource and fault management in future networks including IMT-2020 and it has ongoing work item on functional requirements for Robotics as a Service (Y.RaaS-reqts).
ITU-T SG13 established the Focus Group on Autonomous Networks (FG-AN) in December 2020. FG-AN leads exploratory ‘pre-standardization’ studies to determine how ITU standards will support the realization and evolution of autonomous networks.
The group is studying autonomous networks based on the key concepts of exploratory evolution, real-time responsive online experimentation, and dynamic adaptation.
FG-AN produced an output document (FGAN-O-013-R1) which is a collection of use cases presented and elaborated during FG-AN meetings. These use cases were published as a Technical Specification and a draft use case deliverable submitted to ITU-T SG13.
For more information: https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/focusgroups/an/Pages/default.aspx
ITU-T SG20 approved Recommendation ITU-T Y.4471 “Functional architecture of network-based driving assistance for autonomous vehicles”, Recommendation ITU-T Y.4215 “Use cases, requirements and capabilities of unmanned aircraft systems for the Internet of Things”, Recommendation ITU-T Y.4421 “Functional architecture for unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicle controllers using IMT-2020 networks” and Recommendation ITU-T Y.4559 “Requirements and functional architecture of base station inspection services using unmanned aerial vehicles”. ITU-T SG20 is also working on draft Recommendation ITU-T Y.DRI-reqts “Requirements for autonomous urban delivery robots interworking”, draft Recommendation ITU-T Y.IoT-MCSI “Metadata for camera sensing information of autonomous mobile IoT devices” and draft Recommendation ITU-T Y.RMDFS-arch “Functional architecture of roadside multi-sensor data fusion systems for autonomous vehicles”.
More info: https://itu.int/go/tsg20
(C.2) Other activities related to standardisation
The Open Community for Ethics in Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (OCEANIS) is a global forum for discussion, debate and collaboration for organizations interested in the development and use of standards to further the development of autonomous and intelligent systems.
The European Partnership for AI, Data and Robotics (Adra PPP) is one of the European PPPs in digital, industry and space in Horizon Europe. The Partnership builds on a Strategic Research, Innovation and Deployment Agenda (SRIDA), prepared by a wide range of stakeholders brought together. Since December 2021, Adra is open to receiving membership applications. One of the areas that the PPP plans to focus on is standardisation.
H2020 and Horizon Europe
R&D&I projects funded under Horizon2020 or Horizon Europe may produce relevant input for standardisation.
A list of possibly relevant projects would include at least: COVR, ROSIN, ROBMOSYS, EUROBENCH, OFERA, CROWDBOT.
Furthermore, the topic HORIZON-CL4-2021-HUMAN-01-02 has called for a Coordination and Support Action that will support, among other objectives, the work of the AI, data and robotics Public-Private Partnership in terms of standardisation.
Study on standardisation needs for AI-enhanced robotics
Completed in 2021, the study concludes that standards for AI-enhanced robotics must build on standards for AI and that further research is necessary to understand what are the gaps. The study proposes the need for a more integrated approach between AI and robotics in terms of standards.
EU-US Trade and Technology Council
The TTC is a transatlantic forum fostering cooperation on international trade and technology-related issues, based on shared priorities and values. Its list of priorities include promoting technology standards and trustworthy artificial intelligence. The dedicated working group translates political decisions into specific deliverables, coordinate technical work and report to the political level.
(C.3) additional information
Robotics PPP — EU Robotics: Strategic Research Agenda
Robotics PPP — EU Robotics: Multiannual Roadmap (rolling document)
International Federation of Robotics: Standardisation
US Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Robotics
Adra PPP – Strategic Research, Innovation and Deployment Agenda