Axon Pauses Plans for Taser Drone as Ethics Board Members Resign

With nine members of its ethics board resigning, Exxon, the company that developed the teaser, announced on Sunday that it was suspending plans to develop a stun-gun-equipped drone that could be used to prevent mass shootings.

Last month, after the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uwalde, Texas, Rick Smith, founder and chief executive of Exxon, announced a proposal for a non-lethal taser drone that schools and other locations could use to prevent mass shootings. Drone, Mr. “Spraying and other firefighting equipment can play the same role for firefighters: preventing a catastrophic event, or at least minimizing its worst effects,” Smith said.

The announcement came on Thursday, weeks after a two-thirds majority of Axon’s ethics board voted to recommend that the company not comply with a pilot study that seeks to test the concept for a taser-equipped drone.

The Ethics Board quickly a Public statement Thursday, in which he said he did not have time to review the proposal, and that Exxon’s decision was “very regrettable.”

Three days later, on Sunday, nine of the 13 members of the Ethics Board met with Mr. Smith that he will resign. Mr. Smith said in a statement Sunday that Exxon would suspend its plans for the drone project. It was unclear whether the decision to suspend the project was taken before or after board members told Mr. Smith plans to resign.

“It is unfortunate that some members of Axon’s ethics advisory panel have chosen to engage directly on these issues before we hear or have the opportunity to address their technical issues,” he said. Said Smith. “We respect their choices and will continue to explore different perspectives to challenge our thinking and help guide other technology options that we should consider.”

“None of us expected the announcement,” the nine board members who resigned said in a statement Monday.

“We all feel the desperate need to do something to address our epidemic of mass shootings,” he said. “But Exxon’s proposal to increase tech-and-policing response when there are less harmful alternatives is not the solution. Prior to Axon’s announcement, we requested that the company withdraw. But the company charged in a way that affected many of us as a result of the Uwalde and Buffalo shooting tragedy. “

In the announcement of the concept by Exxon, Mr. “I know it sounds ridiculous to some,” Smith said. He offered three warnings: that non-lethal drones should not be capable of hitting; What the drone does should be controlled by humans, not drones; And drones will need “strict surveillance.”

“If a shooter comes to church, for example, and a drone is deployed and the shooter is put down, we can’t just celebrate that success,” Mr. Said Smith. “We have to examine the video closely and rigorously.”

The board members who resigned said in a statement that the ethics board had for years warned the company against using products that could survey people in real time.

“This kind of surveillance will undoubtedly hurt communities of color and others who are over-policing, and possibly beyond,” he said. “Taser-equipped drones also have no real chance of solving the problem of mass shooting. Axon is now determined for that, just distracting society from the real solutions to the tragic problem.”

Barry Friedman, director of the New York University School of Law policing project, one of the board members who resigned, said in an interview that he was glad Exxon had stopped its plans for the drone project, and hoped the company would abandon it altogether.

“I think it’s very important that we find a way to ban the adoption of technologies, which is often done with little concern for harm to privacy, damage to racial justice or how much data the government has on all of us.” , And what is accessible to the government, “he said.

Giles Herdale, one of the four board members who decided not to resign, said he hoped that by remaining on the board, he would be able to “try to minimize any damage caused by developments like this.”

“All we have to do there is try to put perspective to give them a break from thinking,” Mr. said. Hurdell, an associate of the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank that specializes in security issues.

“Because the idea of ​​arming a drone, or any other autonomous robot, is such a far-reaching decision,” he said.

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