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Outdoor mobile robots now permitted for business use 2023-11-17

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) and the National Police Agency announced on November 16 that following the implementation of the revised Intelligent Robots Act starting November 17, it is now permissible to engage in new business activities like delivery and patrolling services utilizing outdoor mobile robots.

Until now, outdoor mobile robots were prohibited from operating on sidewalks. However, this has changed with the recent amendments and implementations of the Intelligent Robots Act (amended on May 16, 2023, implemented on November 17, 2023) and the Road Traffic Act (amended on April 18, 2023, implemented on October 19, 2023). Now, outdoor mobile robots that have received operation safety certification are recognized as pedestrians, enabling them to use sidewalks. Operators intending to use these robots on sidewalks must ensure they are covered by insurance or a similar mutual aid scheme.

The Intelligent Robots Act specifies that outdoor mobile robots eligible for operation safety certification must weigh no more than 500kg and have a maximum speed of 15km/h or less. To obtain the operation safety certification, applicants are required to pass a series of 16 safety tests including adherence to designated operating areas and safely navigating pedestrian crossings. These evaluations are conducted at certification institutions appointed by MOTIE.

MOTIE will start accepting applications for the certification institutions from November 17, the date of the enactment of the revised Intelligent Robots Act, and the decision will be made within November. MOTIE also plans to introduce cost-effective insurance products for outdoor mobile robot operators by appointing the Korea Association of Robot Industry as the responsible body for damage compensation business implementation.

The National Police Agency, under the revised Road Traffic Act, will enforce rules for the precise and safe operation of outdoor mobile robots to protect pedestrians. Outdoor mobile robots that fail to adhere to traffic laws, including obeying signals and avoiding jaywalking, may lead to a KRW 30,000 fine for the operators.

MOTIE and the National Police Agency plan to closely monitor if certified robots could still cause safety risks in the early stages of implementation. They also asked that pedestrians be not alarmed, damage, nor intentionally obstruct the course of outdoor mobile robots on the sidewalks.

MOTIE announced that it will develop the "Advanced Robot Industry Vision and Strategy" within the year to boost new businesses utilizing outdoor mobile robots, and promptly implement regulatory enhancements aligned with the regulatory innovation measures for advanced robots established on March 2, 2023.