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Peninsula Lawmaker Targets 'Killer Robots' With Proposed Resolution

REDWOOD CITY (KPIX 5) -- What sounds like the stuff of science fiction - killer robots - is a real threat, according to researchers. And now a Peninsula lawmaker is trying to do something about it.

Robots are buying our groceries, patrolling our streets, and even helping us navigate busy airports. Artificial intelligence is a part of our daily lives but San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa wants to pass laws to make sure these robots don't become killer robots.

On Tuesday, Canepa introduced a resolution to ban, in his own words, "autonomous weapons, AKA, killer robots." If the resolution is adopted, San Mateo County would be the first in the United States to urge Congress and the United Nations to restrict the development of weaponized robotic technology.

"As policy makers, for us to catch up with technology we ourselves have to be out in front of it," said Canepa. "So that's why we're working on this issue."

"Now is the time to act before we feel the threat is present," said Dr. Todd Davies, Symbolic Systems Program Associate Director at Stanford University.

Davies has been working closely with University of California, Berkeley Professor of Computer Science Stuart Russell the man behind "Slaughterbots," a video that went viral showing the damage autonomous drones could cause.

Both Davies and Russell are leading AI researchers and among the 3,400 researchers who recently signed an open letter calling for a ban on autonomous weapons. Russell also helped Canepa craft his proposed resolution.

"None of us will be safe even in our homes if autonomous weapons are allowed to proliferate," said Davies.

"I believe in my heart of hearts this [resolution] is something we have to do," said Canepa.

Supervisors continued Canepa's resolution Tuesday. They will take it up again January 24.

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