The surge in robot sales has seen the emergence of four major suppliers, two Japanese, Fanuc and Yaskawa, a Swiss/Swedish concern ABB and Germany's Kuka AG. The rise in robot demand has coincided with a jump in their share prices. Kuka made the news last year not because its robots were building Tesla and Porsche cars, but for its €4.5bn takeover by the Chinese appliance company Medea, which hopes to build small mobile robots for the home and consumer industry. However, the German government was unhappy with the takeover. While it has a right to block any non-EU company from acquiring more than a 25pc stake in any German entity, it is limited to public order being endangered or national security.
Germany's recent move to ban the sale of children's smartwatches with built-in voice recognition technology may lead privacy regulators to adopt a ban for other such devices, privacy professionals told Bloomberg Law. Inc.'s Alexa, become commonplace, German privacy officials may seek to ban them or restrict how they are used. The global voice and speech recognition market is valued at nearly $6.2 billion in 2017 and is likely to reach $18.3 billion by 2023, according to an August report by competitive market research company MarketsAndMarkets Research Private Ltd. "If something is said in your living room and that speech is recorded and passed along to data providers, it's exactly the same as surveillance, Marit Hansen, data protection officer for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, told Bloomberg Law. As voice-controlled devices continue to grow, so too will data privacy concerns over devices that store voice commands and back up the data through a central server, Hansen said. German regulators are considering how to regulate such devices under German privacy law amendments set to take effect when the European Union's new privacy regime, the General Data Protection Regulation takes effect in May 2018, she said.
Hanover German Chancellor Angela Merkel has kicked off the world's biggest digital business fair in Hanover with a speech urging developers not to leave their fellow humans behind. At the opening ceremony for the CeBIT expo, Merkel appealed to tech firms to include the'millions of people who in some ways don't know what awaits them' in the digital revolution, adding that politicians could not achieve such inclusion without help from the industry. Merkel is set to peruse the latest trends at the trade fair in detail on Monday, when it opens to the public, together with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 'We cannot let a situation arise in which only certain people generate wealth,' Abe said on Sunday, reinforcing the theme of shared benefits. Merkel admitted that Europe was all too often lagging behind in digital technology.
SEE ALSO: Elon Musk teases'unexpected' new Tesla product Officials from Germany's Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) have requested that Tesla stop using the term "Autopilot" for its driver assistance feature, calling it misleading. "It can be confirmed that a letter to Tesla exists with the request to no longer use the misleading term Autopilot for the driver assistance system of the car," a KBA official told Reuters. "A letter to Tesla exists with the request to no longer use the misleading term Autopilot." According to the report, the German agency's letter to Tesla stated, "In order to prevent misunderstanding and incorrect customers' expectations, we demand that the misleading term Autopilot is no longer used in advertising the system."
Just days ago, Germany's Federal Motor Authority sent letters to Tesla owners warning them that their cars' "Autopilot" feature is strictly there for driver assistance, not driver replacement. Still, it's not hard to see what German authorities are concerned about. After all, Tesla is clearly heading down the self-driving path: CEO Elon Musk said last year that he was aiming to have fully autonomous cars ready in 2018, though he later seemed to shy away from his claim. It's also worth noting that domestic authorities are probably keeping a close eye on Tesla's response to this situation; a draft regulation released by California's Department of Motor Vehicles in September prohibits advertising cars that can sort of drive themselves a la Teslas as "autonomous" or "self-driving."
Following two confirmed Tesla Autopilot-related crashes in the U.S., including a fatality, German lawmakers are planning legislation that would require carmakers to include a black box for cars. More commonly associated with aircraft, the proposed black box would record when an autonomous system was engaged, when the car asked the driver to retake driving duties and when a human driver took control or not, according to Reuters. The intent of this legislation would help both carmakers, regulators and law enforcement officials determine who is responsible in the event of an autonomous car crash. For example, along with the black box idea, German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt also wants legislation to include language that allows the human driver to check out and not pay attention to traffic but also requires them to remain in the driver seat so they can intervene in the case of an emergency.