Bosch sets company guidelines for use of artificial intelligence in products

Bosch gives its associates a set of guiding principles and takes a stance in the public debate about AI.

30th Mar 2020
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To build trust among humans about artificial intelligence, Bosch AG, a German multinational engineering company, has issued ethical “red lines” for the use of AI in its products.


The company’s AI code of ethics is based on “humans should be the ultimate arbiter of any AI-based decisions, as well as invented for life ethos, which combines a quest for innovation with a sense of social responsibility.” 


For this, Bosch has signed up to the high-level expert group on artificial intelligence, a body appointed by the European Commission to examine issues such as the ethical dimension of AI.


“Artificial intelligence should serve people. Our AI code of ethics provides our associates with clear guidance regarding the development of intelligent products,” said Volkmar Denner, CEO of Bosch AG, adding that its goal is to help people trust AI-based products.


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AI and its code of ethics started by Bosch is the future of this technology




As per the company, by 2025, it aims for all its products to either contain AI or have been developed or manufactured with its help. The company wants its AI-based products to be safe, robust, and explainable, it said.


“If AI is a black box, then people won’t trust it. In a connected world, however, the trust will be essential,” Michael Bolle, CDO and CTO, Bosch said. 


Over the next two years, Bosch plans to train 20,000 of its associates in the use of AI. Bosch’s AI code of ethics governing the responsible use of this technology will be part of this training programme.


According to PwC, between 2020 and 2030, AI will boost the gross domestic product (GDP) in China by 26 percent, in North America by 14 percent, and by around 10 percent in Europe. The new-age technology will help overcome challenges in areas such as climate action and optimise outcomes in a host of areas such as transportation, medicine, and agriculture.


It will take more than just technical know-how to establish trust in intelligent systems – there is also a need for close dialogue among policymakers, the scientific community, and the general public, the CEO added. 


“The moral foundation for this process is provided by the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the company further said.


Humans should retain control


Bosch’s AI code of ethics also stipulates that AI should not make any decisions about humans without this process is subject to some form of human oversight. Instead, artificial intelligence should serve people as a tool.


To that effect, three possible approaches are described by the company. 


In the first approach (human-in-command), artificial intelligence is purely an aid – for example, in decision-supporting applications, where AI can help people classify items such as objects or organisms. 


In the second approach (human-in-the-loop), an intelligent system autonomously makes decisions that humans can, however, override at any time. Examples of this include partially automated driving, where the human driver can directly intervene in the decisions of, say, a parking assistance system. 


The third approach (human-on-the-loop) concerns intelligent technology such as emergency braking systems. Here, engineers define certain parameters during the development process, but there is no scope for human intervention in the decision-making process itself. The parameters provide the basis on which AI decides whether to activate the system or not. Engineers retrospectively test whether the system has remained within the defined parameters. If necessary, these parameters can be adjusted.


Building trust together


Bosch also hopes its AI code of ethics will contribute to the public debate on artificial intelligence. 


As a founding member of the Cyber Valley research alliance in Baden-Württemberg, Bosch is investing 100 million Euros in the construction of an AI campus, where 700 of its experts will soon be working side by side with external researchers and startup associates.


Further, the Digital Trust Forum, a committee established by Bosch, aims to foster close dialogue among experts from leading international associations and organisations. Its 11 members are meeting up at Bosch Connected World 2020. 


“Our shared objective is to make the internet of things safe and trustworthy,” Bolle said.


(Edited by Suman Singh)

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