A new survey out today shows that a growing number of Europeans work or share their home with robots (one in seven, up from one in eight in 2012). Generally, those who have more experience with robots (at home, at work or elsewhere) are more positive towards their use.

Photo with woman lying on the sofa, and robot vacuum cleaner cleans

  • Eight in ten Europeans (82%) who use robots think well of them, while nine in ten (90%) among them would purchase one.
  • 74% of young Europeans have a positive view of robots and 72% of all Europeans (77% of young people) believe robots are good for society because they help people.
  • A fifth of respondents (20%) say that they would consider having a robot at home. One in ten (10%) could get one within the next five years.

Moreover:

  • People who use robots are more likely than those who don't use them, to feel comfortable travelling in an autonomous vehicle (28% vs. 20%) and to feel comfortable transporting goods in an autonomous vehicle (33% vs. 25%)
  • Those who would consider purchasing a robot are more likely than those who would never consider it to feel comfortable traveling in an autonomous vehicle (36% vs. 16%), and to feel comfortable transporting goods in an autonomous vehicle (44% vs.20%)
  • People who have experience with robots, at home or work, are less likely to think that civil drones are a threat to privacy (61% vs. 67%) and more likely to think they are an efficient way of moving or delivering goods (61% vs. 56%) than those who have not used robots.

These are some of the findings of a Eurobarometer survey on autonomous systems published today which looks at European's attitudes to robots, driverless vehicles autonomous drones. In particular, robotics can contribute to Europe's Digital Single Market plan, by keeping Europe's manufacturing sector competitive and the millions of jobs connected to it.

Graph showing attitudes towards and engagement with robots (Q2/3/4)

Robots stole my job? The survey also showed that

  • 9 in 10 Europeans consider robots require careful management
  • 70% think robots steal people's jobs.

A study showed that industrial robots can have a positive impact on employment:

  • the robotics industry itself generates about 150,000 jobs worldwide, to which can be added the support staff and operators, another 150,000 people;
  • indirect job creation as a result of higher precision and consistency of robots is estimate at 2 to 3 million in the countries covered (Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, S. Korea and USA);
  • indirect job creation as a result of higher competitiveness at 2 to 3 million;
  • total direct and indirect job creation of industrial robots: 4 to 6 million people worldwide

Robotics creates jobs!

In Germany, for example, the robot density increased between 2000 and 2012 by almost 80% (from 146 robots per 10.000 employees in manufacturing to 261 robots). The annual rate of increase of industrial production was between 5% and 8%. The employment in manufacturing in Germany remained at 6 million. So, far from making jobs redundant, robots enabled Germany to stay competitive and increase industrial production.

The European Union has set itself the target of increasing the contribution of industry to GDP from currently 15% to 20% in 2020. Robotics is an essential part of the digilisation of industry, and, as Gunther H.Oettinger European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society recently pointed out:

"Industry in Europe has assets to build on: they include leadership in industrial robotics and factory automation. […] Our current regulatory environment can create unforeseen hurdles to digitalisation and uncertainty for digital businesses. This includes for example the liability of systems as they become more autonomous, safety and security with the increasing interaction between smart devices such as robots and humans, and the protection of massive amounts of data generated by digital manufacturing."

The Commissioner has therefore invited key players to share their views on how to transform our current regulatory framework for platforms, liability, security, safety, IPR and data protection into "smart legislation" to make it fit for purpose in the digital world. Along the same lines, a dedicated European Parliament working group on the legal questions related to the development of robotics aims at paving the way for the drafting of rules relevant to robotics and artificial intelligence, which could greatly assist European industrial manufacturing.

Autonomous cars and civil drones

Besides people's views on robots, the survey also asked questions about autonomous cars and civil drones. Main findings include:

  • A third of people (35%) would be comfortable travelling in autonomous or driverless cars. However, people seem more comfortable with autonomous cars transporting goods: four out of ten (42%) could accept this.
  • Civil drones appear to be known to most people (60% have heard of them). While two thirds (67%) of respondents are concerned that civil drones are a threat to privacy, a majority (57%) believe they are an efficient way of delivering goods.

Background

According to Eurostat, manufacturing represents more than one quarter (26.8%) of the EU’s total non-financial business economy value added, providing around 30 million jobs in a total of 2.1 million enterprises, mostly SMEs.

This survey was carried out in the 28 Member States of the European Union between the 29th of November and 9th of December 2014. Some 27,801 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed face-to-face at home in their mother tongue.

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