Axon Enterprise, the maker of Taser, is halting its project to equip drones with stun guns to combat mass shootings. The decision was taken after most of its AI ethics board members resigned.
On May 24, 19 children and two teachers were killed in a mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. This prompted Axon to announce that it is working on a drone that could be remotely operated by first-responders to fire a Taser at a target of 40 feet (12 meters) away.
However, Axon's CEO, Rick Smith, released a statement on Sunday that said:
"Our announcement was intended to initiate a conversation on this as a potential solution, and it did lead to considerable public discussion that has provided us with a deeper appreciation of the complex and important considerations relating to this matter. I acknowledge that our passion for finding new solutions to stop mass shootings led us to move quickly to share our ideas.
However, in light of feedback, we are pausing work on this project and refocusing to further engage with key constituencies to fully explore the best path forward."
Earlier, one of Axon's ethics member had told Reuters that he and eight colleagues were resigning from the 12-member panel. The ethics panel gathers feedback on emerging technologies and governs the moral principles before gadgets like drones and AI can be misused.
Apart from tasers, Axon also manufactures body cameras and policing software for about 17,000 out of roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S.
This is not the first time the company is rolling back a decision. In 2019, the company said that it will not use facial recognition software in its policy body cams after the ethics board expressed concern about the plan.
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